Skip to main content

Full text of "CMH Pub 5-6-1 Seizure Of The Gilberts And Marshalls"

See other formats


UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II 



The War in the Pacific 



SEIZURE OF THE 
GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



by 

Philip A. Crow I 
and 

Edmund G. Love 




CENTER OF MILITARY HISTORY 
UNITED STATES ARMY 
WASHINGTON, D, C, 1993 



Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 55-60002 



First Printed 1955— CMH Pub 5-6-1 



For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office 
Washington, D C. 20402 



UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II 
Kent Roberts Greenfield, General Editor 



Advisory Committee 

(As of 17 March 1954) 



James P. Baxter 
President, Williams College 

John D. Hicks 
University of California 

William T, Hutchinson 
University of Chicago 

S. L. A. Marshall 
Detroit News 

Charles S. Sydnor* 
Duke University 



Brig. Gen. Verdi B. Barnes 
Army War College 

Brig. Gen. Leonard J. Greeley 
Industrial College of the Armed Forces 

Brig. Gen. Elwyn D. Post 
Army Field Forces 

Col. Thomas D. Stamps 
United States Military Academy 

Col. C. E. Beauchamp 
Command and General Staff College 



Charles H. Taylor 
Harvard University 

Office of the Chief of Military History 
Maj. Gen. Albert C. Smith, Chief** 



Chief Historian 

Chief, War Histories Division 

Chief, Editorial and Publication Division 

Chief, Editorial Branch 

Chief, Cartographic Branch 

Chief, Photographic Branch 



Kent Roberts Greenfield 
Col. George G. O'Connor 
Lt. Col. Thomas E. Bennett 
Joseph R. Friedman 
Wsevolod Aglaimoff 
Maj. Arthur T, Lawry 



*Deceased. 

**Maj. Gen. Orlando Ward was succeeded by General Smith on t February 1953. 



Ill 



. . . to Those Who Served 



Foreword 



Seizure of the Gilberts and Marshalls deals with amphibious warfare as waged 
by American forces against the Japanese-held atolls of the Central Pacific 
during World War II. The word amphibious, as here used, includes the landing 
and supply of troops in combat as well as the air and naval support of the 
operations. 

The atoll operations described in this volume were amphibious from begin- 
ning to end. They were not simple seaborne hit-and-run raids of the Dieppe 
type. The objective was to secure the atolls as steppingstones to the next 
advance. The islands were relatively small, permitting continual naval and air 
support of the ground operations. 

Some outstanding examples of the co-ordination of fire support by artillery, 
naval gunfire, and air are found in this book. The advantages of simple plans 
and the disadvantages of the more complicated will stand out for the careful 
reader. 

The story of the capture of these atolls of Micronesia offers some of the best 
examples of combined operations that are available in the annals of modern 
war. Ground, sea, and air components were always present, and the effective- 
ness with which they were combined and co-ordinated accounts in large meas- 
ure for the rapid success enjoyed in these instances by American arms. Units of 
the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps were active participants in the 
operations and the role they played is treated in this volume as fully as is con- 
sidered appropriate in a series devoted to the history of the U.S. Army in 
World War II. 

From the point of view of strategy, the significance of this volume lies in the 
fact that it tells the story of the beginnings of the drive across the Central Pacific 
toward the Japanese homeland. This concept of defeating Japan by pushing 
directly westward from Hawaii through the island bases of the mid-Pacific was 
traditional in American strategic thinking, but had never been put to test and 
was seriously challenged in some quarters. As is shown here, the test was first 
made in the campaigns against the Gilberts and Marshalls, the outcome was 
successful, and the experience gained was of inestimable value in planning for 
the subsequent conduct of the war in the Pacific. 



Washington, D. C. 
9 January 1953 



ORLANDO WARD 
Maj. Gen., U. S. A. 
Chief of Military History 



vii 



The Authors 



Philip A. Crowl, who has an M.A. from the State University of Iowa and a 
Ph.D. from the Johns Hopkins University, taught History at the Johns Hopkins 
University and at Princeton. Commissioned in the Navy in World War II, he 
became a lieutenant (senior grade) and commanding officer of an LCI gunboat 
that was in action at Leyte Gulf, Lingayen Gulf, and Okinawa. He is author of 
Maryland During and After the Revolution (1943) and co-author of The U. S. Marines 
and Amphibious War (1951). He was awarded the James V. Forrestal Fellowship 
for 1953-54 to prepare a study of command relationships in amphibious war- 
fare in World War II. 

Before World War II Edmund G. Love, with an M.A. from the University 
of Michigan, taught History in a Michigan high school. A captain of Infantry 
in World War II, he became historical officer of the 27th Infantry Division and 
observed the operations of that division on Makin, Eniwetok, Saipan, and 
Okinawa. 

From 1946 to 1 August 1949 Mr. Love was a member of the Pacific Section 
of the Army's historical staff in Washington. Dr. Crowl has been a member of 
that staff since 1949. 



viii 



Preface 



This volume tells the story of the launching of the Central Pacific drive 
against Japan in late 1943 and early 1944. Specifically, it deals with the am- 
phibious operations against five Central Pacific atolls — Makin, Tarawa, 
Kwajalein, Majuro, and Eniwetok. It was in these battles that American 
amphibious doctrine received its first critical test in the Pacific war, and the vic- 
tories achieved made possible a continuation of the highly important drive 
against Japan's perimeter of island defenses in the Carolines, Marianas, Vol- 
cano Islands, and Ryukyus. 

Numerically speaking, the Army's contribution to the forces responsible for 
the capture of these atolls was not as great as that of the Marine Corps. Yet the 
Army's role was a major one and is here set forth in minute detail. If the activ- 
ities of other participating U.S. services receive less attention in these pages, it 
is only because this volume is by definition a part of the history of the U.S. 
Army in World War II. 

For a variety of reasons this book has been a long time in preparation. A 
draft was prepared by Mr. Edmund G. Love, then set aside, to be taken up 
later by the undersigned for extensive revision, correction, and elaboration. The 
authors' debts for aid and assistance are too numerous to acknowledge in detail. 
Dr. Louis Morton and Dr. John Miller, jr., during their respective tenures as 
Chief of the Pacific Section, Office of the Chief of Military History, read every 
page with care and discrimination and offered invaluable guidance. In addi- 
tion, Dr. Miller prepared a separate study of the strategic background of the 
operations which was used as the basis for the first and part of the second chap- 
ter. Dr. Kent Roberts Greenfield, Chief Historian, Department of the Army, 
gave liberally of his time and advice. To Maj. Gen. Orlando Ward, formerly 
Chief of Military History, Col. George G. O'Connor, Chief of War Histories 
Division, and the military members of their staff a great debt is owed for their 
sympathetic interest, technical assistance, and supervision of the publication of 
the volume. 

Mr. Wsevolod Aglaimoff and Mr. Charles von Luettichau not only pre- 
pared the maps but offered many important suggestions regarding tactical de- 
tails. Mr. Thomas Wilds did a distinguished job of piecing together the com- 
plicated and often obscure story of Japanese defensive preparations and battle 
operations. Miss Margaret Plumb checked all the footnotes of the original draft 
for accuracy. Miss Mary Ann Bacon edited the manuscript and prepared the 
index with imagination as well as meticulous care, and Mr. Allen R. Clark was 



IX 



copy editor. Maj. Arthur T. Lawry and Miss Margaret Tackley are responsible 
for the selection of photographs. Mr. Israel Wice and his staff, Miss Lois Aldrich 
of the Departmental Records Branch, Office of the Adjutant General, U.S. 
Army, and Mrs. Vivian McCoy and Mr. Paul Rugen of the Records and Re- 
search Section, Historical Branch, G-3, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, are 
to be thanked for their aid in the gathering of the documents and other source 
materials that made up the frame work of the volume. Mrs. Martha Willoughby 
and Mrs. Marguerite Bartz typed the manuscript. 

To the historical sections of the other U.S. services special thanks are due for 
unfailing co-operation. Lt. Col. Frank Hough, USMC, Lt. Col. Harry Edwards, 
USMC, and the staff of the Historical Branch, G-3, Headquarters, U.S. 
Marine Corps were especially generous in their assistance. The large number 
of officers of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force who read and 
criticized various portions of the manuscript, corresponded with the authors, or 
permitted themselves to be interviewed, is acknowledged in the bibliographical 
note appended to the volume. 

Washington, D. C. PHILIP A. CROWL 

28 January 1954 



x 



Contents 

Chapter Page 

I. THE DECISION TO STRIKE THROUGH THE CENTRAL 

PACIFIC 3 

Prewar Plans 3 

Pacific Organization and Early Strategy 4 

The Casablanca Conference 7 

Mac Arthurs Strategic Plans 10 

The Washington Conference and the Strategic Plan for the Defeat of 

Japan 12 

II. SELECTION OF TARGETS AND TACTICAL PLANNING . 18 

Selection of the Targets 18 

Planning for Galvanic 25 

Intelligence on the Gilberts 27 

Organization and Command of the American Forces 34 

III. PREPARING FOR THE ATTACK 44 

Training 44 

Logistics 47 

Preliminary Air and Naval Action 52 

Movement Overseas 56 

IV. THE ENEMY 60 

Japanese Invasion of the Gilberts 60 

Carlson's Raid and Its Aftermath 61 

American Attacks and Japanese Responses 67 

Japanese Defenses on the Eve of the Attack 70 

V. THE LANDINGS ON MAKIN 75 

Red Beaches 75 

Establishing the Beachhead 79 

Yellow Beach 82 

VI. REDUCTION OF THE WEST TANK BARRIER 89 

Advance of the 2d Battalion to the Barrier 89 

Advance of the 1st Battalion 94 

Holding Action on the East 97 

First Day: The Summing Up 100 

VII. CONSOLIDATING THE BEACHHEAD 102 

Build-up of the Assault 102 

First Night on Butaritari 106 

Final Mop-up at the West Tank Barrier and Yellow Beach 1 08 



xi 



Chapter Page 

VIII. MAKIN TAKEN 112 

The Main Action of the Second Day 112 

The Second Night 117 

The Third Day: Capture of the East Tank Barrier 118 

The Advance Beyond the East Tank Barrier 119 

The Last Night 122 

Mop-up 124 

Profit and Loss 125 

IX. THE CAPTURE OF TARAWA 127 

Preliminaries to the Invasion 127 

The Landings on Red Beach 7 1 32 

Operations at Red Beach 2 135 

The Landings at Red Beach 3 1 38 

Reinforcing the Beachhead 1 39 

Supply, Communications, and Command 144 

Consolidating the Beachhead: D Plus 1 147 

Tarawa Is Secured 1 50 

Conclusion of the Operation 155 

X. STRATEGIC AND TACTICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THE 

GILBERTS OPERATION 157 

Strategic Consequences 157 

Tactical Lessons Learned 158 

Conclusion 165 

XI. TACTICAL PLANNING FOR THE MARSHALLS 166 

Early Planning 167 

Spruance's Plan 1 70 

Admiral Turner's Attack Plan 172 

The Landing Force Plans 175 

XII. TRAINING, LOGISTICS, AND PRELIMINARY OPERA- 
TIONS 183 

Training the Army Ground Troops 183 

Training the 4th Marine Division 1 86 

Logistics 1 87 

Preliminary Army Air Operations 193 

Preliminary Naval Action 199 

Approach of the Invasion Force 202 

XIII. JAPANESE DEFENSES IN THE MARSHALLS 206 

Before Pearl Harbor 206 

From Pearl Harbor to the Eve of Invasion of the Marshalls 209 

The Defenses of Kwajalein Atoll, January 1944 212 

XIV. THE INVASION OF SOUTHERN KWAJALEIN 219 

The Landings on D Day 219 

The Landings on Kwajalein Island 230 

xii 



Chapter Page 

XV. REDUCTION OF THE MAIN DEFENSES OF KWAJALEIN 

ISLAND 241 

The Push Inland: First Day 241 

The First Night on Kwajalein Island 249 

Second Day's Action 253 

Situation at the End of the Second Day 259 

XVI. KWAJALEIN ISLAND: THE THIRD DAY 262 

The Plan for 3 February 264 

The Attack of the 32d Infantry 264 

The Morning Action in the 184th Infantry's ^one 266 

The Revised Plan of Attack 273 

Situation on the Night of 3 February 277 

XVII. END OF THE BATTLE FOR SOUTHERN KWAJALEIN . . 283 

Kwajalein Island Secured 283 

Completing the Conquest of Southern Kwajalein 290 

Chauncey Island 290 

Burton Island 291 

Final Mop-up 298 

XVIII. THE CAPTURE OF MAJURO AND ROI-NAMUR 302 

Majuro 302 

D Day: Northern Kwajalein 304 

Initial Landings on Roi and Namur 311 

The Capture of Roi 316 

The Capture of Namur 322 

XIX. THE SEIZURE OF ENIWETOK ATOLL 333 

Plans and Preparations 333 

Preliminary Air Operations 338 

Japanese Defenses on Eniwetok Atoll 339 

The Seizure of Engebi Island 344 

The Capture of Eniwetok Island 348 

Parry Island 360 

XX. CONSOLIDATING THE VICTORY 366 

Mop-up in the Marshalls 366 

Building the Marshalls Bases 367 

Neutralizing the Bypassed Atolls 368 

XXI. TACTICAL AND STRATEGIC CONSEQUENCES OF THE 

MARSHALLS OPERATION 370 

CONCORDANCE OF CODE AND NATIVE NAMES FOR ISLANDS IN 

KWAJALEIN ATOLL 375 

BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 377 

LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS 382 

GLOSSARY OF CODE NAMES 385 

BASIC MILITARY MAP SYMBOLS 387 

INDEX 391 

xiii 



Tables 

No. Page 

1. Ammunition Expended by Japanese on Tarawa and Makin, 13-19 Novem- 

ber 1943 56 

2. Japanese Strength in Southern Kwajalein Atoll on D Day 215 

3. Combat Effectiveness of Japanese in Southern Kwajalein Atoll on D Day . . 217 

4. Japanese Strength in Northern Kwajalein Atoll on D Day 218 

Charts 

1. Task Organization of Various Commands for the Attack on the Gilbert 

Islands 34 

2. Task Organization of Major Commands for the Attack on Kwajalein 

and Majuro Atolls 171 

3. Task Organization of Major Commands for the Attack on Eniwetok 

Atoll 337 

Maps 

1. The Pacific Areas, 1 August 1942 6 

2. Gilbert and Marshall Islands 19 

3. Makin Atoll 28 

4. Tarawa Atoll 32 

5. First Night on Butaritari, 20-21 November 1943 107 

6. Second Day's Action, 21 November 1943 114 

7. Securing Makin, 22-23 November 1943 120 

8. Kwajalein Atoll 169 

9. Southern Kwajalein 176 

10. Northeastern Kwajalein 181 

11. Third Day on Kwajalein Island, Morning, 3 February 1944 263 

12. Third Day on Kwajalein Island, Afternoon, 3 February 1944 274 

13. Last Day of Battle on Kwajalein Island, 4 February 1944 284 

14. Capture of Burton, 3-4 February 1944 292 

15. Majuro Atoll 303 

16. Eniwetok Atoll 335 

17. Capture of Engebi, 1 7 February 1 944 346 

18. Capture of Eniwetok Island, 19-21 February 1944 350 

19. Capture of Parry, 22 February 1944 362 

Maps I-VII Are in Accompanying Map Envelope 

I. Butaritari Island (Western Portion) 
II. Betio Island 
III. D Day on Butaritari, 20 November 1943 

xiv 



No. 

IV. Capture of Betio, 20-23 November 1943 
V. Kwajalein Island 

VI. Landings on First Two Days of Battle on Kwajalein Island, 1-2 
February 1944 
VII. Capture of Roi and Namur, 1-2 February 1944 



Illustrations 

Page 

American Representatives at the Casablanca Conference 8 

Butaritari from the Air 29 

Training Operations on Oahu, Hawaii 46 

Supplies Palletized for Gilberts Operation 50 

Nauru Island 55 

Southern Attack Force 57 

Briefing Troops on Scale Models of Butaritari 58 

Japanese Coastal Defenses in Gilberts 66 

Japanese Tank Defenses on Makin 72 

Landings on Red Beach 78 

Dense Vegetation on Butaritari 80 

Dummy Coast Defense Gun 81 

Yellow Beach Landing Area 84 

Yellow Beach Landing 86 

Hulks Off On Chong's Wharf 87 

Defensive Positions on Makin 92 

M3 Light Tank 95 

Unloading Supplies at King's Wharf 103 

M3 Medium Tanks 109 

Beached Seaplane and Rifle Pits 115 

Japanese Naval Guns Emplaced on Betio 128 

Western End of Betio after Bombardment 131 

Red Beach 1 133 

Disabled LVT 135 

Landings at Red Beach 2 136 

Red Beach 3 140 

Damaged Medium Tank M4 143 

Damaged Japanese Type 95 Light Tank on Betio 144 

Beach Defensive Positions 149 

Japanese Bombproof Shelters 152 

Mille Under Air Attack 195 

Taroa After Being Bombed 196 

Wotje Under Air Attack 198 

Action at Kwajalein 200 

Roi Airfield 204 

Landing on Carlson Island 224 

Demolished Communications Center and Strongpoint 226 



xv 



Page 

105-mm. M2 Howitzers 228 

Effect of Bombardment of Kwajalein 231 

Invasion of Kwajalein 234 

Bulldozer Clears Route 237 

75-mm. Howitzer in Action 239 

Flame Thrower 245 

Korean Laborers 248 

105-mm. Howitzer Crew in Action 250 

37-mm. Antitank Gun Firing 254 

Battalion Aid Station 260 

Tank-Infantry Attack 268 

A .30-Caliber Machine Gun 272 

Pontoon Piers at Green Beach 4 279 

Burton (Ebeye) Island 293 

Japanese Entrenchments on Burton 294 

Japanese Bombproof Shelter 296 

Buildings and Shelters 299 

Namur 310 

Landing Craft Head for Beach at Namur 315 

Medium Tanks 317 

Neutralizing a Concrete Blockhouse 320 

Namur Island Beachhead 323 

A Japanese Torpedo Warhead Magazine 326 

Marines Take Cover 328 

Marines Attack Blockhouse 330 

Attack on Engebi 347 

Invasion of Eniwetok 352 

Machine Gun Squad Firing 354 

Marines Prepare To Attack 357 

Parry Island Under Preliminary Bombardment 361 

Photographs are from the Department of Defense files. 



xvi 



The U.S. Army Center of Military History 



The Center of Military History prepares and publishes histories as re- 
quired by the U.S. Army. It coordinates Army historical matters, including 
historical properties, and supervises the Army museum system. It also 
maintains liaison with public and private agencies and individuals to stimu- 
late interest and study in the field of military history The Center is located 
at 1099 14th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005-3402. 



xvii 



SEIZURE OF THE 
GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



CHAPTER I 



The Decision To Strike 
Through the Central Pacific 



In November 1943 American forces 
successfully invaded the Gilbert Islands, 
which the Japanese had wrested from 
British control shortly after the attack on 
Pearl Harbor almost two years earlier. 
Thus the United States initiated the great 
westward drive across the Central Pacific 
that would eventually bring Allied forces 
to the very doorstep of the Japanese home- 
land. This drive would constitute the 
northern or upper part of a two-pronged 
movement against the heart of Japanese 
military and economic power in the Pa- 
cific. The lower prong would be repre- 
sented by General Douglas MacArthur's 
steady progress up the Solomon Islands, 
up the northern coast of New Guinea, and 
into the Philippine Islands. But it was to 
the Central Pacific route, westward from 
Hawaii through the myriad islands and 
atolls of Micronesia, that the American 
strategic planners had assigned the "main 
effort" in the war against Japan. Along 
this path U.S. naval, ground, and air 
forces under command of Admiral Ches- 
ter W. Nimitz were to begin a series of 
amphibious assaults of size and scope un- 
paralleled in the history of oceanic war- 
fare. 



Prewar Plans 

There was nothing new in the idea that 
the United States would have to seize 
strategic island bases in the Central Pa- 
cific in the event of a war against Japan. 
Throughout the 1920's and 1930's stra- 
tegic planners in Washington had prepared 
a series of plans, designated the Orange 
plans, to provide for that contingency. 
All of these chose the Central Pacific as 
the main avenue of approach for a deci- 
sive move against the prospective enemy. 
The first Orange plan, approved by the 
Joint Army and Navy Board in 1924, con- 
ceived of an offensive war against Japan 
that would be essentially naval in charac- 
ter. By cutting the Japanese Empire's sea 
routes, and by air and naval operations, 
Japan, it was believed, could be isolated. 
The plan further provided that troops 
from the continental United States would 
be assigned to seize and hold islands in the 
Central Pacific, including the Marshall 
group, and that large bodies of troops 
would be dispatched to reinforce the Phil- 
ippines. 

Between 1925 and 1938 this original 
Orange plan was revised many times. In 



4 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



the final revision it was decided that the 
Philippines could be defended by their 
peacetime garrison plus whatever other 
local forces were available, without rein- 
forcements from the United States. But 
none of the changes affected one basic 
aspect of the plan — U.S. naval forces 
would move westward through the islands 
of the Central Pacific to establish naval 
dominance in the western waters of that 
ocean. 

The Orange plans had been prepared 
on the assumption that only the United 
States and Japan would be at war. By 
1941 this assumption was no longer valid. 
The emergence of the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo 
Axis, the American decision to support 
Great Britain in her struggle against Ger- 
many and Italy, and the growing realiza- 
tion that the United States was likely to 
become involved in war against the Axis 
caused American and British officials to 
prepare tentative plans for combined ac- 
tion. The last American plan made before 
7 December 1941 was prepared on the as- 
sumption that the United States and 
Britain would be allied and at war with a 
combination of enemy powers and was 
designated Rainbow 5. Although never 
formally approved by President Franklin 
D. Roosevelt, it was the plan put into 
effect at the outbreak of war between the 
United States and the Axis Powers. In the 
belief that Germany was the major enemy 
and would have to be defeated first, Rain- 
bow 5 declared the Atlantic-European 
theater to be the main area of operations. 
In the Pacific and the Far East the Allies 
would assume a role primarily defensive, 
although limited naval offensive measures 
were to be undertaken at the earliest 
possible moment. 

Specifically, the U.S. Army was to help 
defend the Hawaiian and the Philippine 
Islands, and to help hold the entrance to 



Manila Bay. The U.S. Navy's role in the 
Pacific was naturally more extensive. The 
Navy was to conduct raids, defend such 
American bases as Wake, Guam, Midway, 
and Samoa, "prepare to capture" the 
Japanese Mandated Islands and establish 
a fleet base at Truk, maintain the line of 
communications between the United 
States and the Philippines, and establish 
naval superiority in the western Pacific. 1 
Thus, with the assignment to the U.S. 
Navy of the task of seizing the Japanese 
Mandated Islands, including Truk, the 
role of the Central Pacific in the forthcom- 
ing war was reaffirmed. 

Pacific Organization and Early Strategy 

The success of Japan's offensive moves 
in late 1941 and the first months of 1942 
did not completely invalidate all Pacific 
provisions of Rainbow 5, but it did post- 
pone any attempt to carry out the offen- 
sive provisions in the early part of 1942. 2 
By May 1942 the Japanese had seriously 
weakened the U.S. Pacific Fleet, had 
seized the Philippines, Wake, Guam, and 
the Gilberts, had captured Malaya, 
Burma, and the Netherlands Indies, and 
had installed themselves in the Bismarck 
Archipelago-New Guinea-Solomons area. 
They held an enormous perimeter of bases 
that included the Kurils, the Marianas, 
Wake, the Marshalls, Rabaul in New 
Britain, the Netherlands Indies, and 
Malaya, with outposts in the Gilberts, the 

1 Information on Orange and Rainbow plans is 
derived from Louis Morton, The Fall of the Philip- 
pines, UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD 
WAR II (Washington, 1953), Ch. IV. 

2 Morton, Fall of Philippines , p. 79. An exception 
must be made for U.S. submarine warfare. As Ad- 
miral Richmond Kelly Turner, USN (Ret), points 
out, ". . . the first major naval offensive — that of 
the Pacific Fleet submarines — began the day war 
broke out." (Ltr, Adm Turner to Maj Gen Orlando 
Ward, 12 Feb 52, Incl 1, p. 3, OCMH.) 



THE DECISION TO STRIKE THROUGH THE CENTRAL PACIFIC 



5 



Solomons, and New Guinea. They ap- 
parently expected the United States to 
grow war-weary launching attacks against 
these strong positions, and to give up the 
fight and agree to a negotiated peace. 3 

But by mid- 1942 the Japanese had over- 
reached themselves. Confident after their 
first successes, they decided to capture 
positions in the Aleutians, the Fijis, Samoa, 
New Caledonia, and Midway, enlarge 
their holdings in New Guinea, and then to 
expand the main perimeter to include the 
newly won bases as well as the Gilberts. 
Seizure of Port Moresby in New Guinea 
and of the Fijis, Samoa, and New Cale- 
donia would have cut the line of com- 
munications between the United States 
and Australia. Thus isolated, Australia 
could not be used as a base for Allied 
counteroffensives. 

Frustrated in their attempt to take Port 
Moresby by the Allied Coral Sea victory 
in early May 1942, the Japanese turned to 
Midway and the Aleutians and met with 
disaster. Although they did obtain foot- 
holds in the Aleutians, their effort against 
Midway was a costly failure. In the Battle 
of Midway, 3-4 June 1942, the U.S. 
Pacific Fleet destroyed four large aircraft 
carriers plus hundreds of planes and many 
of their best-trained pilots. Thus crippled, 
the Japanese Combined Fleet was no longer 
capable of offensive action. The time had 
come for the Allies to seize the initiative. 
The groundwork had already been laid 
since the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), 
who had been assigned responsibility for 
the strategic direction of the war in the 
Pacific, had already organized the Pacific 
theater and undertaken measures to ini- 
tiate at least limited offensives. 

The Joint Chiefs on 30 March 1942, 
with the approval of President Roosevelt 
and the Allied governments concerned, 
had organized the Pacific theater into two 



great commands — the Southwes t Pacific 
Area and the Pacific Ocean Areas. (Map 1 ) 
The Southwest Pacific Area, under Gen- 
eral MacArthur, consisted principally of 
Australia, New Guinea, the Bismarck Ar- 
chipelago, the Netherlands Indies, the 
Philippines, and adjacent waters. 

The Pacific Ocean Areas 4 included 
nearly all the rest of the Pacific Ocean. It 
encompassed virtually everything south 
of the Bering Strait, west of continental 
United States, north of the South Pole, 
and east of the Southwest Pacific Area and 
China. The Pacific Ocean Areas was di- 
vided into three commands: the North 
Pacific, which stretched north of latitude 
42° north; the South Pacific, which lay 
south of the equator and east of the South- 
west Pacific; and the Central Pacific, lying 
between the equator and latitude 42° 
north. Major islands and groups in the 
Central Pacific were the Hawaiian Islands, 
Wake, part of the Gilberts, the Marshalls, 
the Carolines, the Marianas, the Bonins, 
the Ryukyus, Formosa, and the Japanese 
home islands. 5 

Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean 



3 For a detailed discussion of Japanese strategy, 
strength, and dispositions see below, Ch. IV. 

4 The directive establishing the command used 
"Area." Memo, JCS for President, 30 Mar 42, incl 
Directive to CINCPOA and Directive to Supreme 
Commander, SWPA, ABC 323.31 POA (1-29-42), 
1-B. Usage has authorized the plural, however. 

5 By the 30 March directive a third command, the 
Southeastern Pacific Area, was set up but never be- 
came a theater of operations and so lapsed into in- 
significance. Directly under Admir?! Ernest J. King 
rather than Admiral Nimitz, its western limit ran 
from Antarctica northward along the meridian of 
100° west to latitude 11° north and thence east to 
the coast of Central America. 

On 2 July 1942 the boundary between the South 
and Southwest Pacific Areas was moved from 160° 
to 159° east longitude in order to place Guadalcanal 
and adjacent islands in the South Pacific Area. (Joint 
Directive for Offensive Opns in SWPA Agreed on 
by U.S. Chiefs of Staff, 2 Jul 42, OPD 381, Sec. II, 
Case 83). 



6 SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 




H Johns {one 

MAPI 



Areas, with headquarters at Pearl Harbor, 
was Admiral Nimitz, who concurrently 
served as Commander in Chief, U.S. 
Pacific Fleet. By the terms of his orders 
from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Nimitz com- 
manded virtually all Allied forces in his 
areas. He directly commanded the Central 
and North Pacific Areas, but according to 
his instructions he appointed a subordi- 
nate as Commander, South Pacific Area. 
After October 1942 this post was held by 
Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr. 

Missions assigned Nimitz and Mac- 



Arthur were practically the same. They 
were to hold bases essential to the security 
of the U.S. -Australia line of communica- 
tions, support operations that would con- 
tain the Japanese, support the defense of 
North America, protect necessary sea and 
air communications, and prepare for major 
amphibious offensives. 

The first offensive moves of the Allies in 
the Pacific were undertaken in accordance 
with the basic Allied strategy for the con- 
duct of the war — Germany would be de- 
feated first and, pending the defeat of the 



THE DECISION TO STRIKE THROUGH THE CENTRAL PACIFIC 



7 



German forces, the Allies would defend in 
the Pacific. But it had long been agreed 
that the Commonwealth of Australia and 
the Dominion of New Zealand, valuable 
as integral economic and political units of 
the British Commonwealth of Nations and 
as bases for future operations, would not 
be allowed to fall to the enemy. It was 
therefore necessary that the Allies hold the 
British Pacific possessions and retain con- 
trol of the vital lines of communications to 
them. In early 1942 a substantial number 
of forces were sent from the United States 
to Australia and the bases along the line of 
communications. Defense of that line was 
also a primary mission of the U.S. Pacific 
Fleet. 

Thus, when that fleet thrashed the 
Japanese at Midway, the Joint Chiefs' 
next move was clear. With the Japanese 
infiltrating southward from Rabaul 
through the Solomons and New Guinea 
toward the line of communications and 
Port Moresby, General George C. Mar- 
shall, Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, and Ad- 
miral Ernest J. King, Commander in 
Chief, U.S. Fleet, and Chief of Naval 
Operations, on 2 July 1942 ordered the 
South and Southwest Pacific forces to ad- 
vance through the Solomons and New 
Guinea to seize Rabaul and remove the 
enemy threats. Forces of the two areas 
moved promptly to the attack, and in the 
lengthy Guadalcanal and Papua Cam- 
paigns, which dragged on until early 1943, 
succeeded in halting the enemy's south- 
ward advance. 6 

By February 1943 the armed forces of 
the two areas were still far from capturing 
Rabaul, but they had insured the safety of 
the line of communications between the 
United States and the British Pacific do- 
minions. With the Japanese on the defen- 
sive, the supply lines fairly safe, and Allied 



air and surface strength on the increase, 
the Joint Chiefs of Staff could consider the 
possibility of further offensive operations 
in the Pacific, especially in the areas under 
Nimitz' immediate command. 



The Casablanca Conference 

While the Guadalcanal and Papua 
Campaigns were slowly drawing to a close, 
American and British planners met once 
more to decide, among other things, a 
future course of operations for the Pacific 
theater. The meeting was convened in 
Casablanca, French Morocco, in January 
of 1943. In attendance were President 
Roosevelt with the U.S. Joint Chiefs of 
Staff and Prime Minister Winston S. 
Churchill accompanied by the British 
Chiefs of Staff. 7 

At Casablanca, although the British 
and Americans were agreed on such larger 
issues as the necessity for beating Germany 
first, there were some points of disagree- 
ment that had to be settled before the 
Allied program for 1943 could be deter- 
mined. The British were generally reluc- 

6 See John Miller, jr., Guadalcanal: The First Of- 
fensive, UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD 
WAR II (Washington, 1949); Samuel Milner, Victory 
in Papua, UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD 
WAR II (Washington, 1955); Samuel Eliot Morison, 
HISTORY OF UNITED STATES NAVAL OP- 
ERATIONS IN WORLD WAR II, Vol. IV, Coral 
Sea, Midway, and Submarine Actions (Boston: Little, 
Brown and Company, 1949), and Vol. V, The 
Struggle for Guadalcanal (Boston: Little, Brown and 
Company, 1949); Maj. John L. Zimmerman, 
USMCR, The Guadalcanal Campaign (Washington, 
1949); Wesley Frank Craven and James Lea Cate, 
eds., THE ARMY AIR FORCES IN WORLD 
WAR II, Vol. IV, The Pacific: Guadalcanal to Saipan, 
August 1942 to July 1944 (hereafter cited as AAF IV) 
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1950). 

7 The Joint Chiefs of Staff together with the British 
Chiefs of Staff, or their representatives in Washing- 
ton, constituted the Combined Chiefs of Staff (CCS). 



8 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 




AMERICAN REPRESENTATIVES AT CASABLANCA CONFERENCE. Back 
row, standing, left to right: Mr. Harry L. Hopkins; Lt. Gen. Henry H. Arnold, Commanding 
General, Army Air Forces; Lt. Gen. Brehon B. Somervell, Commanding General, Services of Sup- 
ply; Mr. W. Averell Harriman, Lend-Lease Coordinator in Great Britain. Front row, seated, left 
to right: General George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff, U.S. Army; President Franklin D. Roose- 
velt; Admiral Ernest J. King, Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet, and Chief of Naval Operations. 



tant to go immediately as far in the Pacific 
as the Americans desired. 8 

The position taken by the American 
representatives was that, having seized the 
the initiative from Japan the previous 
August at Guadalcanal, it would be un- 
wise to relinquish it and allow the Japanese 
to dig in too strongly or to mount a 
counteroffensive. Throughout the confer- 
ence they continually stressed the impor- 
tance of keeping constant pressure on 
Japan. The British, on the other hand, 
expressed their opposition to greater efforts 
in the Pacific at that time. They reminded 



their American colleagues of the extreme 
importance of beating Germany first, and 
in that connection of giving substantial aid 
to the Soviet Union. The Japanese, they 
suggested, should be contained by limited 
offensives until Germany fell. 9 

The most articulate spokesman for the 
American position was Admiral King, 
who introduced the question of a Central 

8 For a more complete discussion see John Miller, 
jr., "The Casablanca Conference and Pacific Strat- 
egy," Military Affairs, XIII (1949), 209-15. 

9 CCS 135, 26 Dec 42, title: Basic Strategic Con- 
cept for 1943; CCS 135/1, 2 Jan 43, title: Basic 
Strategic Concept for 1943 — The European Theater. 



THE DECISION TO STRIKE THROUGH THE CENTRAL PACIFIC 



9 



Pacific offensive to the Combined Chiefs 
in the afternoon of 14 January. He began 
his discussion with an analysis of the 
strategic situation in the Pacific, where, he 
declared, the Allies were engaging the 
enemy on four fronts: the Alaska- Aleu- 
tians area, the Hawaii-Midway line, the 
South and Southwest Pacific Areas, and 
the China-Burma-India theater. After 
pointing out that the object of the Guadal- 
canal and Papuan operations was to se- 
cure the approaches to northeast Aus- 
tralia, and that Rabaul was the key to the 
situation there, he brought forward the 
problem of where to go after Rabaul was 
captured by the Allies. 

The Philippine Islands, King advocated 
should certainly be a major objective, 
although he was not prepared at that time 
to rule out completely the possibility of 
driving through the Aleutians against the 
Japanese home islands. As between the 
East Indies and the Philippines, the latter 
was preferable since an attack on the 
Indies would be a frontal assault against 
a strong position, whereas the Philippines 
could be taken on the flank. Although 
King did not make the point explicitly, 
implicit in his analysis was the fact that 
seizure of the Philippines would cut off 
Japan from the vast riches of the Indies, 
especially oil, since the Philippines squarely 
blocked the sea routes between Japan and 
the Indies. 

With the Philippines as a major objec- 
tive, King argued, the next problem was 
the selection of a route of approach. He did 
not definitely commit himself on that 
point, though from his analysis it appears 
that he favored the Central Pacific. For 
years, he observed, the Naval War College 
had been studying the question of how to 
recapture the Philippines in the event they 
were taken by the enemy. Three routes of 



approach had been considered: an ap- 
proach from the north to Luzon via the 
Aleutians; a southern route that was out- 
flanked by enemy bases; and a direct route 
through the Central Pacific. The direct 
thrust, King declared, would necessitate 
"establishing a base in the northwestern 
Marshalls and then proceeding to Truk 
and the Marianas." Later in the meeting 
he spoke strongly in favor of taking Truk 
and the Marianas. Both Admiral King 
and General Marshall re-emphasized the 
importance of keeping the Japanese under 
pressure by retaining the initiative, for, as 
King warned, there was always the danger 
that the Japanese might mass their re- 
maining aircraft carriers for another great 
strike at either Midway or Samoa. 10 

Three days later the American repre- 
sentatives at Casablanca submitted a more 
detailed proposal for immediate opera- 
tions in the Pacific. Again arguing that it 
was essential that the Japanese be kept 
under "continual pressure sufficient in 
power and extent to absorb the disposable 
Japanese military effort," they proposed 
that the following steps be taken: 

1 . Seizure and consolidation of positions 
in the Solomons and in eastern New 
Guinea up to the Huon Peninsula, and of 
the New Britain-New Ireland area; 

10 Min, 56th mtg CCS, 14 Jan 43. Proceedings and 
papers of the Casablanca Conference are filed in 
sequence with the CCS and JCS minutes and papers. 
They were also printed and bound, along with the 
proceedings of the meetings between the President 
and Prime Minister, in a volume entitled Casablanca 
Conference: Papers and Minutes of Meetings (edited 
and printed by the CCS, 1943) and filed in the office 
of the G-3. See also Robert E. Sherwood, Roosevelt and 
Hopkins: An Intimate History (New York: Harper & 
Brothers, 1948), Ch. XXVII, for an analysis of the 
conference from Harry Hopkins' point of view. The 
discussion of strategy at the Casablanca Conference 
will be more fully treated in Maurice Matloff, The 
Strategy of Coalition Warfare, 1943-1944, a volume 
now in preparation for this series. 



10 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



2. Seizure of Kiska and Agattu in the 
Aleutians; 

3. Seizure of the Gilberts, Marshalls, 
and Carolines (including Truk) after the 
capture of Rabaul; 

4. Occupation of New Guinea as far as 
the Dutch border as an extension of the 
Truk operation; and 

5. Operations in Burma to keep China 
in the war and to intensify attacks by 
China-based planes against shipping. 

Increases in Allied forces for the Pacific 
and Burma in 1943 would partly depend 
on what the Japanese did, but the rein- 
forcements were planned: 250,000 air and 
ground troops, 500 planes, the larger por- 
tion of new U.S. warships, 1,250,000 tons 
of shipping, and reinforcements to the 
British Eastern Fleet for Burma. 11 

Once more the British objected on the 
ground that Pacific operations might di- 
vert enough Allied strength to jeopardize 
the fight against Germany. Again both 
King and Marshall rose to defend the 
American position. To the British sugges- 
tion that the Allies confine their Pacific 
operations in 1943 to Rabaul and Burma 
alone, King replied that there were re- 
sources available to include the Marshalls 
as well. The month of May might find 
Rabaul in Allied hands, he argued, and 
since the Burma campaign would not be- 
gin until November, combat forces would 
remain idle in the interim unless they 
could be re-employed in the Marshalls. 
General Marshall was able to allay the 
British worries that Pacific offensives would 
cut into operations against Germany by 
proposing that the Gilberts- Marshalls- 
Carolines invasions be undertaken "with 
the resources available in the theater." The 
British finally assented, and there were no 
more disagreements at Casablanca over 
Pacific strategy. 12 



Thus, for their Pacific program for 1943, 
the Allies decided to "make the Aleutians 
as secure as may be," to advance north- 
west from Samoa to protect the line of 
communications to Australia, and to 
mount diversionary operations against the 
Malay Barrier. They decided to advance 
directly west "as practicable" through the 
Central Pacific toward the line Truk- 
Guam, particularly against the Marshall 
Islands, in conjunction with operations 
against Rabaul, whose capture in 1943 
was practically taken for granted. The ad- 
vance through the Central Pacific would 
not be allowed to prejudice the recapture 
of Burma, nor would there by any north- 
ward advance from Rabaul toward Truk 
and Guam unless sufficient forces were 
available to complete the task and follow 
up. 13 

As far as Pacific strategy was concerned, 
the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff had accom- 
plished much at Casablanca. They had 
expounded in some detail the significance 
of Pacific operations to their British col- 
leagues, and had secured approval of at 
least a start on the drive across the Central 
Pacific in 1943. The possibility of begin- 
ning the advance was of course closely 
connected with MacArthur's and Halsey's 
operations against Rabaul. 

MacArthur's Strategic Plans 

At his headquarters in Brisbane, Gen- 
eral MacArthur had been preparing for 
the recapture of Rabaul for some time, and 

11 CCS 153 (Revised), 17 Jan 43, title: Situation to 
be Created in the Eastern Theater (Pacific and 
Burma) in 1943. 

12 Min, 60th mtg CCS, 18 Jan 43. 

13 Proceedings of the last meeting, Casablanca 
Conf, pp. 154-69; CCS 155/1, 19 Jan 43, title: Con- 
duct of the War in 1943; CCS 168, 22 Jan 43, title: 
Conduct of the War in the Pacific Theater in 1943; 
CCS 170/2, 23 Jan 43, title: Final Report to the Presi- 
dent and Prime Minister Summarizing Decisions by 
the CCS. 



THE DECISION TO STRIKE THROUGH THE CENTRAL PACIFIC 



11 



by February 1943 had completed a de- 
tailed, comprehensive plan known as 
Elkton. 14 In addition, he and his staff 
were considering ways and means to ac- 
complish the ultimate defeat of Japan. 
Looking far into the future, they concluded 
that the recapture of Rabaul would gain 
"important, but not decisive advantages" 
that would help future operations but 
would not adversely affect Japan's war 
economy. In order to strike a great blow at 
the enemy's capacity to wage war, Mac- 
Arthur and his planners reasoned, Japan 
should be cut off from the Netherlands 
Indies with its great quantities of oil, tin, 
and rubber. If the Allies seized the Philip- 
pines and developed air and naval bases 
there, Japan could be denied access to the 
Indies. Thus far MacArthur's conclusions 
agreed with those expressed by the U.S. 
Chiefs of Staff at Casablanca. But there 
was one major difference — the route of 
approach. 

Whereas the Joint Chiefs had clearly 
intimated that the Philippines were to be 
approached through the Central Pacific, 
MacArthur concluded that a drive through 
the Marshalls and Carolines would have 
to be made without land-based air support, 
would be slow, would cost heavily in naval 
power and shipping, and would "require a 
re-orientation of front." Since according to 
his reasoning the Central Pacific route was 
unwise, MacArthur desired that after he 
and Halsey had captured Rabaul, South- 
west Pacific forces should advance west 
along the north coast of New Guinea and 
thence into Mindanao in the southern 
Philippines. Neutralization of the Palaus 
and seizure or neutralization of various 
islands in the Banda and Arafura Seas 
would protect the flanks of the advance. 15 
This long-range plan prepared by General 
MacArthur's headquarters was designated 
Reno. 



In March 1943 representatives of the 
Central, South, and Southwest Pacific 
Areas convened in Washington to meet 
with the Joint Chiefs and Joint Staff Plan- 
ners in a series of sessions known as the 
Pacific Military Conference. This confer- 
ence paid only slight attention to the Cen- 
tral Pacific; its primary purpose was to 
decide what should be the next immediate 
steps in the South and Southwest Pacific 
theaters. The Joint Chiefs of Staff were not 
at this time apprised of MacArthur's Reno 
plan, but they were given the full details of 
Elkton. 

Elkton contemplated a drive against 
Rabaul along two axes — through New 
Guinea and New Britain on the west and 
through the Solomons to New Ireland on 
the east — to culminate in a converging 
assault on Rabaul. But to execute Elkton 
would have required 22% divisions and 
45 groups of aircraft. The South and 
Southwest Pacific Areas together had a 
total of only 15% trained divisions and 
less than half enough aircraft. Some rein- 
forcements could be provided, but the 
everlasting scarcity of troop transports and 
cargo ships prevented reinforcement on 
anything like the scale required by Elk- 
ton. As a result, the Joint Chiefs decided 
not to try to take Rabaul in 1943. Cutting 
the objectives for 1943 in half, they ordered 
MacArthur and Halsey to take Woodlark 
Island and Kiriwina (Trobriand Islands) 
in the Solomon Sea, to seize the Lae- 
Salamaua-Finschhafen-Madang area of 

14 GHQ SWPA, Elkton Plan for the Seizure 
and Occupation of the New Britain- New Ireland- 
New Guinea Area, 12 and 28 Feb 43 versions. A copy 
of the 12 February Elkton is in OCMH files; a copy 
of the 28 February version is in G-3 files. For a more 
detailed treatment, see John Miller, jr., Cartwheel: 
The Reduction of Rabaul, a forthcoming volume in 
this series; for MacArthur's earlier plans see Milner, 
Victory in Papua. 

15 GHQ, SWPA, Estimate of Situation and Rough 
Draft, Reno Plan, 25 Feb 43, OCMH. 



12 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



New Guinea, to capture western New 
Britain, and to drive through the Solomons 
to southern Bougainville. 16 

Thus, the Pacific Military Conference of 
March settled for the time being the imme- 
diate future in MacArthur's and Halsey's 
theaters of operation. By curtailing the list 
of objectives to be captured in 1943, the 
conference also indirectly gave impetus to 
the Central Pacific drive since any addi- 
tion to the total shipping, manpower, and 
equipment that might be made available 
to the Pacific in the future would not have 
to be sent to bolster the capture of Rabaul. 
Instead, it could be assigned to Nimitz' 
Central Pacific theater. It remained for the 
Combined Chiefs of Staff to come to a final 
decision at their next meeting in respect to 
forthcoming operations in the Central Pa- 
cific and to determine which of the two 
theaters, MacArthur's or Nimitz', should 
be allocated priority in the drive against 
Japan. 

The Washington Conference and the Strategic 
Plan for the Defeat of Japan 

In May 1943 President Roosevelt and 
the Joint Chiefs of Staff met once more 
with Prime Minister Churchill and the 
British Chiefs of Staff, this time in Wash- 
ington. The purpose of the Washington 
conference, which is generally known by 
its code name Trident, was to re-examine 
Allied strategy for 1943 in the light of 
changes in the situation since the meeting 
at Casablanca. Little had developed in the 
Pacific since early February, and the con- 
ference concerned itself primarily with the 
European bomber offensive, the cross- 
Channel attack, possible operations after 
the seizure of Sicily, and the Burma-China- 
India theater. 17 But the conference was 
called upon to consider a tentative plan for 



the war in the Pacific drawn up after Casa- 
blanca by the highest American strategists. 

This plan, prepared by the U.S. Joint 
Chiefs of Staff and their subordinate com- 
mittees 18 and submitted to the Washing- 
ton conference on 20 May 1943, was en- 
titled "The Strategic Plan for the Defeat 
of Japan." 19 "Strategic Plan" was actually 
a misnomer. It was not a plan according to 
strict military definition, for it gave no esti- 
mates of enemy strength and dispositions, 
did not mention the types and numbers of 
Allied forces that would be required to 
accomplish the missions it described, said 
nothing about command or commanders, 
and did not establish time schedules. 
Nevertheless, although more of a set of 
ideas than a plan, the "Strategic Plan" be- 
came the cornerstone of Pacific strategy 
for the remainder of 1943 and for 1944. 
Furthermore, it diverged widely from 
MacArthur's strategic concepts as ex- 
pressed in Reno. 

The plan as it stood in May 1943 in- 
volved operations by China, Great Britain, 
and the United States. It also apparently 
encompassed action by the Pacific domin- 



16 GHQSWPA, Elkton Plan for the Seizure and 
Occupation of the New Britain-New Ireland-New 
Guinea Area, 28 Feb 43; Notes on Pacific Conf Held 
in March 1943, DRB AGO; JCS 238/5/D, 28 Mar 
43, Directive: Plan for Opns for Seizure of the Solo- 
mon Islands-New Guinea-New Britain-New Ireland 
Area. In the end, Rabaul was never assaulted, but 
was neutralized by air action. For a fuller discussion 
of these and related points see Miller, Cartwheel. 

17 Records of the conference are in the volume, 
Trident Conference, May 1943, Papers and Minutes 
of Meetings (edited and printed by CCS, 1943), copy 
in G-3 files. 

18 The subordinate committees included the Joint 
War Plans Committee (JWPC), the Joint Strategic 
Survey Committee (JSSC), and the Joint Staff Plan- 
ners (TPS). 

19 JSSC 40/2, 3 Apr 43; JPS 67/4, 28 Apr 43; JCS 
287, 7 May 43; JCS 287/1, 8 May 43; CCS 220, 14 
May 43. All bear the title "Strategic Plan for the De- 
feat of Japan" or something very similar. 



THE DECISION TO STRIKE THROUGH THE CENTRAL PACIFIC 



13 



ions of the British Commonwealth of Na- 
tions, although these were not mentioned 
by name. 

The ultimate objective of all operations 
was naturally the unconditional surrender 
of Japan. It was then thought that secur- 
ing unconditional surrender might require 
an Allied invasion of the Japanese home 
islands, although the U.S. Chiefs of Staff 
and their subordinates agreed that control 
of the sea, especially of the western Pacific, 
might bring about unconditional surren- 
der without invasion, and even without an 
air offensive. If invasion proved necessary, 
it could not be successful unless the Japa- 
nese will to resist had been seriously weak- 
ened. Undermining the enemy's powers of 
resistance and his desire to keep fighting 
by a large, sustained air offensive against 
the home islands was regarded as the best 
method. The possibility of employing air 
bases in the Kuril Islands, Formosa, and 
Siberia to mount the offensive was dis- 
cussed, but it was agreed that China 
offered the best sites. 20 China would thus 
have to be maintained, and United States 
and British forces would need to fight their 
way to China in order to secure a good 
port, preferably Hong Kong. 

The two Allies would, according to the 
plan, get to China by three general routes: 
through Burma; through the Strait of 
Malacca and the South China Sea to 
Hong Kong from the west; and from the 
east across the Pacific and through the 
Celebes Sea to Hong Kong. The British, 
assisted by the Americans and Chinese, 
would recapture Burma, and would make 
the drive through the Strait of Malacca to 
Hong Kong by a series of amphibious 
operations. The Chinese would help cap- 
ture Hong Kong and with American aid 
would seize and defend the necessary air 
base sites. Meanwhile, United States forces 



would be driving through the Celebes Sea 
to Hong Kong. Then China, Great Britain, 
the United States, and apparently the Pa- 
cific dominions would join forces in a 
grand air bombardment of Japan. Noth- 
ing was said about the invasion of Japan 
beyond the statement that it might be nec- 
essary. Although exact timing was not 
discussed, it was then generally thought 
that the final advances would not be un- 
dertaken before the fall of Germany, and 
might last until 1948. 

The next problem dealt with by the plan 
was that of the selection of the route and 
methods by which U.S. forces would ap- 
proach Hong Kong from the east. Here 
was one of the basic strategic decisions of 
the Pacific war. United States forces, it 
was decided, were to advance westward 
from Pearl Harbor through the Central 
Pacific, and through the South and South- 
west Pacific Areas to open a line of com- 
munications to the Celebes Sea, recapture 
the Philippine Islands, secure control of 
the northern part of the South China Sea, 
and join in the descent upon Hong Kong. 

The main effort in the westward advance 
would be made in the Central Pacific, 21 a sub- 
sidiary effort through the South and South- 
west Pacific. This choice of the Central 
Pacific as the most advantageous route of 
advance was dictated by several considera- 
tions. It was much shorter and less round- 
about than the southern route and would 
not require as many ships, troops, and sup- 
plies. It was far more healthful than the 
pest-ridden jungles of the Solomons and 
New Guinea. Through the Central Pacific, 
the Allies could strike the enemy's most 



20 The Marianas were not mentioned as a possible 
base for B-29's, whose capabilities had been briefly 
discussed at Casablanca. 

21 Italics are the authors'. 



14 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



vulnerable flank and isolate Japan from 
her overseas empire. Furthermore, if Allied 
fleets destroyed or contained the enemy 
fleet, they could then strike directly from 
the Pacific against the Japanese home 
islands, without relying exclusively on 
aerial bombardment from fields in China. 
The Japanese could deploy only limited air 
and ground forces in the islands and atolls 
of the Central Pacific, whereas on the 
southern route only the availability of 
troops, planes, and ships would limit the 
size of the Japanese forces. The Allies, on 
the other hand, were under no such handi- 
cap because of their superiority in carrier- 
based air power. In the absence of land- 
based aircraft, carrier-based planes could 
support amphibious operations against 
island fortresses. 

A successful drive through the Central 
Pacific would outflank the Japanese in 
New Guinea, whereas operations along the 
northern New Guinea coast would neither 
eject them from nor outflank them in the 
Central Pacific, and the Japanese would 
retain relative freedom of naval maneuver. 
And, as Admiral King had pointed out at 
Casablanca, an Allied drive exclusively 
along the southern route would expose 
flanks and rear to enemy attacks. Whereas 
an attack through New Guinea into the 
Philippines or the Indies would be a 
head-on push against large islands con- 
taining positions closely arranged in depth, 
one directed through the Central Pacific 
would strike at vulnerable positions sepa- 
rated from one another by vast ocean 
reaches, and thus not quite so well placed 
to support one another. Seizure of the 
Marshalls and Carolines would give the 
Allies control of much of the Pacific and 
place them in position to isolate Japan 
from the Philippines-Indies salient, per- 
haps by the seizure of Formosa. Further, 



the great American naval shipbuilding 
program would be largely wasted if the 
southern route were used, and certainly 
the U.S. Pacific Fleet could best be used in 
long-range offensives. 

But if all these factors favored the Cen- 
tral Pacific as the area where the "main 
effort" against Japan should be launched, 
other considerations argued for continuing 
the South-Southwest drive at least as a 
secondary effort in support of the principal 
offensive. In the first place, it was believed 
that Australia would doubtless object to a 
redirection of all offensive effort to the 
Central Pacific. Besides, the oil fields of 
the Vogelkop Peninsula of New Guinea, 
then in Japanese hands, might be of some 
use to the Allies. Furthermore, Allied 
forces in the South and Southwest Pacific 
Areas were already in close contact with 
the Japanese, and shifting them all to the 
Central Pacific would waste time and 
shipping. Finally, and most important, 
was the fact that twin drives along the cen- 
tral and southern axes would provide 
more opportunities for mutual support, 
and by preventing the Japanese from 
being able to guess the time and place of 
forthcoming advances would keep them 
strategically off balance. For these reasons, 
then, American strategic planners decided 
to make the twin drives, with the main ef- 
fort through the Central Pacific. 

On 20 May the "Strategic Plan for the 
Defeat of Japan" was submitted to the 
Combined Chiefs of Staff. It was accepted 
as a "basis for combined study and elabo- 
ration of future plans." 22 Next day Ad- 
miral King spoke to the Combined Chiefs 
at some length to explain the American 
proposals. He reverted to many of the 
statements he and Marshall had made at 



22 Min, 90th mtg CCS, 20 May 43. 



THE DECISION TO STRIKE THROUGH THE CENTRAL PACIFIC 



15 



Casablanca regarding routes across the 
Pacific, the importance of the various 
Allied lines of communications, and the 
necessity for maintaining constant pressure 
on the Japanese communication lines and 
recapturing the Philippines. In pursuit of 
these goals, Rabaul, Truk, and the Ma- 
rianas were important intermediate objec- 
tives. The Marianas, which King stated 
were an important base on the Japanese 
lines of communications, he regarded as a 
key to success. 23 

Two days later the Combined Chiefs of 
Staff approved a lengthy paper containing 
the U.S. Joint Chiefs' proposals for Allied 
objectives in the Pacific and Far East in 
1943 and 1944. This paper, based on the 
"Strategic Plan," repeated previous argu- 
ments and provided estimates of forces re- 
quired and forces actually available for 
particular operations. 

Offensives in 1943 and 1944 should aim 
at the following: 

1 . Conduct of air operations in and from 
China; 

2. Conduct of operations in Burma de- 
signed to increase the movement of sup- 
plies to China; 

3. Ejection of the Japanese from the 
Aleutians; 

4. Seizure of the Marshalls and Caro- 
lines; 

5. Seizure of the Solomons, the Bismarck 
Archipelago, and enemy-held New Guin- 
ea; and 

6. Intensification of operations against 
the Japanese lines of communications. 

It was estimated that capture of the Bis- 
marck Archipelago, which would secure 
the line of communications to Australia 
and help provide access to the Celebes Sea, 
would require perhaps seven divisions of 
which five would be amphibious units. If 



Rabaul were effectively neutralized by air 
bombardment, perhaps only five — three 
amphibious — would be needed. Assuming 
that Allied forces could capture western 
New Britain and southern Bougainville by 
December 1943, the Joint Chiefs con- 
cluded that the Bismarck Archipelago op- 
erations would not be completed before 
April 1944. 

Seizure of the Marshalls, it was agreed, 
was essential to an extension of the line of 
communications to the Celebes Sea, and 
would also shorten and secure the routes 
to Australia. From the Marshalls, land- 
based aircraft could help support naval 
surface operations against the enemy's 
communication lines, and there was al- 
ways the possibility that an Allied push 
into the Marshalls would force the Japa- 
nese fleet to come out fighting. The Mar- 
shalls operation would require two rein- 
forced amphibious divisions, four heavy 
bombardment and two fighter groups of 
land-based planes, and aircraft from four 
standard and four auxiliary aircraft car- 
riers, in addition to four battleships, three 
more auxiliary carriers, twelve cruisers, 
sixty-three destroyers, twenty-four attack 
transports, forty-four tank landing ships 
(LST's), plus landing craft. Garrison 
forces would include one reinforced divi- 
sion, 10 defense battalions, 545 planes, and 
18 motor torpedo boats. The entire oper- 
ation, from the initial invasion to the time 
the assault troops were withdrawn and 
readied for the invasion of the Carolines, 
would last six and three-fourths months. 

Capture of the Carolines would be a 
much larger affair. Possession of this enor- 
mous string of atolls would help give the 
Allies control of the Central Pacific, pro- 
vide them with a major fleet base at Truk, 



23 Min, 92d mtg CCS, 21 May 43. 



16 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



and put them in position to push on to the 
southwest or to threaten the Japanese 
archipelago directly. Truk and Ponape, as 
well as various other atolls, would have 
to be captured; air raids against Guam 
and Saipan in the Marianas would be nec- 
essary. It was agreed that the Carolines 
should be approached through the Mar- 
shall even if Rabaul were in Allied hands. 

No specific time limit was set, but the 
Combined Chiefs of Staff agreed that the 
proposed Carolines campaign would be 
lengthy. And it would require, they esti- 
mated, 3 reinforced amphibious divisions, 

2 heavy bomber groups, 10 carriers of the 
Enterprise and Essex classes, 7 auxiliary car- 
riers, 4 modern battleships, 9 old battle- 
ships, 31 cruisers, 108 destroyers, 20 sub- 
marines, 45 attack transports, 15 attack 
cargo ships, 6 LSD's (landing ships, dock), 

3 headquarters ships (AGC's), and miscel- 
laneous auxiliaries. To garrison the islands 
would take two reinforced divisions and 
three defense battalions, plus aircraft. 

Controlling factors would include am- 
phibious equipment and availability of 
divisions with amphibious training. There 
were then two Marine divisions (the 1st 
and 2d, in the Southwest and South Pa- 
cific Areas, respectively) that were ready 
to go, with the 3d Marine Division in the 
South Pacific supposed to be ready for 
combat by 15 July. The 4th Marine Divi- 
sion in California was expected to com- 
plete its training before the end of the year. 
Since transferring divisions from the South 
and Southwest Pacific to the Central Pa- 
cific would take many ships that were ur- 
gently needed elsewhere, it was agreed 
that two more Marine divisions and two 
more Army amphibious divisions were re- 
quired in the Pacific. 

As far as naval forces were concerned, 
the picture was bright. The huge fleet 



could be provided, the Combined Chiefs 
asserted, and they concluded that the 
forces listed would be sufficient to carry or 
simultaneous operations in the Central 
and South Pacific Areas in 1943 and 
1944. 24 

The final resolutions of the conference, 
as approved by President Roosevelt and 
Prime Minister Churchill, established the 
Allied objectives for the remainder of 1943 
and part of 1944, and allotted certain 
forces for reaching those objectives. All 
decisions reached at Casablanca that did 
not square with the Washington resolu- 
tions were canceled. The Americans and 
British restated their determination to 
force the unconditional surrender of the 
Axis at the earliest possible date. They de- 
cided to "maintain and extend unremit- 
ting pressure" on Japan to reduce her 
war-making power and to gain new bases 
with the expectation that Britain, the 
United States, and all Allied Pacific pow- 
ers (including the Soviet Union if possible) 
would direct all their resources to force the 
surrender of Japan soon after Germany's 
defeat. 

The program for the Pacific and Far 
East was ambitious and complicated. 
Using as a basis the U.S. "Strategic Plan 
for the Defeat of Japan," the Combined 
Staff Planners were to prepare an "appre- 
ciation leading to a plan for the defeat of 
Japan," including an estimate of the nec- 
essary forces. Recapture of Burma in 1943 
was considered impossible, but prelimi- 
nary operations were to be started, air 
operations intensified, and the flow of sup- 
plies to China augmented. 

In the Pacific, the objectives recom- 
mended by the Joint Chiefs — ejection of 



24 CCS 239/1, 23 May 43, title: Opns in the Pacific 
and Far East in 1943-44. 



THE DECISION TO STRIKE THROUGH THE CENTRAL PACIFIC 



17 



the Japanese from the Aleutians, 25 seizure 
of the Marshalls and Carolines, seizure of 
the Solomons, Bismarck Archipelago, and 
Japanese-held New Guinea, and intensi- 
fication of operations against the Japanese 
lines of communication — were all ac- 
cepted. 

Unlike Casablanca, the Washington 
decisions included estimates of forces re- 
quired, concluding on the cheering note 
that the Allies had enough of everything, 
granted that the rate of losses, especially 
in shipping, did not markedly increase. 26 
By 1 January 1944, according to existing 
plans, one Marine and three Army divi- 
sions would be in the Central Pacific; the 
South Pacific would have two Marine, five 
U.S. Army, and one New Zealand divi- 
sions; the Southwest Pacific, four U.S. 
Army infantry, one U.S. Army airborne, 
one Marine, and eleven Australian Army 
divisions, of which three would be avail- 
able for offensive operations. According to 
the Joint Chiefs' estimates of 1 2 May two 
more divisions were thus needed for the 
Marshalls, two more for the Carolines, and 
three additional for New Guinea. 27 

Thus the Washington conference of 



May 1943, although not primarily con- 
cerned with Pacific strategy, made impor- 
tant decisions regarding the conduct of 
the Pacific war. By approving in a general 
way the "Strategic Plan for the Defeat of 
Japan," it set the pattern of strategy for the 
duration of the war against Japan. By 
authorizing the drive through the Mar- 
shalls and Carolines and approving allo- 
cation of the required forces, it determined 
the course of Admiral Nimitz' operations 
for about a year. 

With the selection of the classic Central 
Pacific route, the Joint Chiefs now faced 
the tasks of deciding on exact objectives 
and of picking the precise units for the 
forthcoming drive across the Pacific. 



25 In May 1943, while the Washington conference 
was under way, naval forces from Nimitz' command 
and the 7th Infantry Division from the Western De- 
fense Command recaptured Attu. The Japanese 
evacuated Kiska shortly before the landing of a joint 
U.S. -Canadian force there in August. The Aleutians 
were thus free of Japanese. 

26 CCS 242/6, 25 May 43, title: Draft of Agreed 
Resolutions. See also CCS 232/1, 18 May 43, title: 
Agreed Essentials on the Conduct of the War. 

27 CCS 244/1, 25 May 1943, title: Implementation 
of Assumed Basic Undertakings and Specific Oper- 
ations for the Conduct of the War in 1943-1944. 



CHAPTER II 



Selection of Targets and 
Tactical Planning 



Selection of the Targets 

The Washington conference of May 
1943 (Trident) set forth the general out- 
line of proposed operations in the Pacific 
for the second half of 1943 and for 1944, 
but much work, thought, and discussion 
remained before detailed plans could be 
devised to carry out these broad concepts. 
Two main problems were still to be de- 
cided. The first of these was the choice of 
exact targets within the Marshalls group. 
The group consists of a double chain of 
coral atolls lying between latitude 5° and 
15° north and longitude 162° and 173° 
east. There are altogether thirty-two 
islands and atolls and some selection had 
to be made between them. 1 Also, the pos- 
sibility early presented itself that the Mar- 
shalls might best be approached by way of 
the Gilberts, a group of sixteen islands and 
atolls formerly belonging to the British 
and lying athwart the equator in the gen- 



eral area of longitude 173° east. 2 {Map 2) 
More difficult of solution was the second 
problem, which involved the balance and 
co-ordination of the Allied offensive as be- 
tween the Central Pacific theater and Gen- 
eral MacArthur's Southwest Pacific Area. 
Although the "Strategic Plan for the De- 
feat of Japan" had clearly indicated that 
the "main effort" in the westward advance 



would be through the Central Pacific, 
there were still those among the various 
planning staffs in Washington — in addi- 
tion of course to General Mac Arthur him- 
self — who doubted the wisdom of giving 
the Central Pacific offensive priority over 
MacArthur's proposed drive against Ra- 
baul. These doubts had to be resolved or 
the objections overruled before final plans 
for a Marshalls operation could be devel- 
oped. Any troops, aircraft, and shipping 
that were to be made available to the Cen- 
tral Pacific drive would have to be diverted 
from the pool either already under Mac- 
Arthur's control or potentially assignable 
to his theater. It was to these delicate and 
difficult problems that planners in Wash- 
ington addressed themselves in June and 
July of 1943. 

Work began immediately after the 
Washington conference. On 27 May the 
Joint Staff Planners directed the Joint War 
Plans Committee to estimate the forces re- 
quired for an invasion of the Marshalls 
and to recommend target dates. 3 The War 
Plans Committee promptly delivered a 
preliminary report suggesting that the in- 

1 R. W. Robson, The Pacific Islands Handbook, 1944 
(New York: The Macmillan Company, 1946), p. 146. 

2 Ibid., p. 161. 

3 Memo, JPS for JWPC, 27 May 43, sub: Exam- 
ination into Pacific Theater, with JWPC 39/D in 
ABC 384 Marshall Islands (10 Jun 43), 1. 



SELECTION OF TARGETS AND TACTICAL PLANNING 



19 



-10*- 



Aloil 




I 



Maloelop Aloll 



.-■•■a Mine Atoll 



Nomorik Atoir & 



.^Euer, Anil 



GILBERT AND MARSHALL 
ISLANDS 



100 



Mokin Atoll 



Abaiono % MofOke Atoll 
AtOll -1 

i^.Tofowo Atoll 

:? AtOll 

.^Apomamo Atoll 



Kurio f. 



.Nauru I 



'65° 



,Oceon 1 



(70.* 
I 



-S-H 



\Nonouli A loll 
AMI S A 1ol<V 



01 



MAP 2 



vasion of the Marshalls be carried out in 
three phases: (1) seizure of Kwajalein, 
Wotje, and Maloelap Atolls in the center; 
(2) occupation of Eniwetok and Kusaie as 
outposts to the north and west; and (3) 
mopping up to seize or neutralize the en- 
tire Wake-Gilberts- Marshalls system. 
The operation, it was recommended, 
should be launched toward the end of 



October to coincide with planned Burma 
operations. Since the initial attacks against 
the Marshalls would be the first attempt 
in U.S. military history to assault defended 
atolls, it was believed that "battle-tested 
shock troops with amphibious training" 
totaling one corps of two divisions would 
be needed for the first phase. The commit- 
tee recognized that the best assault craft 



20 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



for the invasions would be amphibian 
tractors (landing vehicles, tracked) which, 
when launched from tank landing ships 
outside the range of shore batteries, could 
deploy and proceed shoreward without 
much danger of being stopped by the 
fringing reefs so abundant in that part of 
the world. 

The only available battle-tested amphib- 
ious troops were the 1st Marine Division 
in the Southwest Pacific and the 2d 
Marine Division in the South Pacific, al- 
though it was thought possible to substi- 
tute the 7th Infantry Division for one of 
the Marine divisions once the Aleutian 
operations were concluded. Invasion of the 
Marshalls in October would necessarily 
deprive Mac Arthur and Halsey of their 
only amphibious divisions with combat 
experience and thus require that South- 
Southwest Pacific operations be halted by 
early August. The Joint War Plans Com- 
mittee therefore recommended that Mac- 
Arthur and Halsey be ordered to conduct 
a holding action along the line Russell 
Islands- Woodlark-Kiriwina-Buna until 
the Marshalls operation was concluded. 4 

The proposition that MacArthur and 
Halsey merely conduct a holding action 
until the conclusion of the Marshalls op- 
eration was met with little favor in the 
Operations Division of the War Depart- 
ment General Staff or by General Mac- 
Arthur. Members of the Operations Divi- 
sion argued that for both political and 
military reasons MacArthur's campaign 
against Rabaul (Cartwheel) should not 
be impeded. Halting this campaign, it was 
held, would cause difficult political reper- 
cussions "both in Australia-New Zea- 
land, and in this country." On the military 
side, any such cessation of the offensive 
would decrease pressure on the Japanese, 
warn them that they would be attacked 



elsewhere, create a lull in an area where 
Allied air operations were most effective, 
and eliminate operations tending to re- 
lieve pressure on Burma. A defeat in the 
Marshalls, continued the Operations Divi- 
sion's thesis, would leave the United States 
for a time without forces to bring pressure 
on Japan, and might expose the line of 
communications to the Southwest Pacific. 
If forces were transferred from Mac- 
Arthur's area to Nimitz', any stalemate 
that might develop in the Marshalls could 
only result in an interval of complete in- 
activity. The commitment of all available 
amphibious equipment would postpone 
for a long time the renewal of amphibious 
operations in the South-Southwest Pacific. 
There were other logistical difficulties as 
well. There probably would not be enough 
cargo ships and transports. Besides, deliv- 
ery of amphibian tractors (LVT's) in 
quantity had just begun, and it was doubt- 
ful that enough would be ready by Octo- 
ber. Success in these operations would be 
dependent on this "new and untried type 
of equipment," and the troops would need 
to be trained in its use. 5 

Both the Joint Planners and the Joint 
Chiefs of Staff agreed that MacArthur's 
campaign against Rabaul should not be 
interrupted but concluded that the Cen- 
tral Pacific drive could be launched con- 
currently anyway. The Joint War Plans 
Committee was ordered to prepare a plan 
for an offensive against the Marshalls to be 
executed in November or December of 



4 JPS 205, 10 Jun 43, title: Opns Against Marshall 
Islands. 

5 OPD brief, title: Notes on Preliminary Rpt by 
JWPC, Opns Against Marshall Islands, atchd to JPS 
205, ABC 384 Marshall Islands (10 Jun 43), 1. 

OPD was wrong about the amphibian tractor, 
which was neither new nor untried. It had given ex- 
cellent service during the landings in the Solomons 
in August 1942. 



SELECTION OF TARGETS AND TACTICAL PLANNING 



21 



1943, but with the understanding that 
MacArthur's campaign should proceed 
according to schedule. 6 The Joint Chiefs 
directed Nimitz to prepare a tactical 
plan for seizing the Marshalls and submit 
it to Washington. They also radioed Mac- 
Arthur explaining to him that more exten- 
sive operations in the Pacific were war- 
ranted by the increasing Allied naval 
strength, and that they were contemplat- 
ing invading the Marshalls about mid- 
November, employing the 1st and 2d 
Marine Divisions plus all assault trans- 
ports and cargo ships and the major por- 
tion of naval forces from Halsey's area. 7 

General MacArthur's response was im- 
mediate and unfavorable. On 20 June he 
radioed the Chief of Staff that he was dis- 
turbed over the effect the proposed inva- 
sion of the Marshalls would have on future 
operations in the South and Southwest 
Pacific. Withdrawal of the two Marine di- 
visions would prevent the ultimate assault 
against Rabaul toward which his current 
operations were leading. He refused to ac- 
cept the proposition already agreed to by 
the joint planners in Washington that the 
main effort against Japan should be made 
through the Central Pacific. On the con- 
trary, he argued that "a diversionary at- 
tack [in the Marshalls] would of course 
assist the main effort in this theater [South- 
west Pacific]," but that troops should 
come from the continental United States, 
"rather than be subtracted from the main 
attack to the extent that may result in its 
collapse. ... I am entirely in ignorance 
regarding the discussions and decisions of 
the recent Washington conference and re- 
quest that I be advised in this respect 
insofar as it affects the broad concept of 
operations in this theater. . . ." Mac- 
Arthur went on to urge the principles of 
the Reno plan, long cherished by his head- 



quarters. "From a broad strategic view- 
point," the best method of defeating Japan 
would be to move from Australia through 
New Guinea to Mindanao with "utterly 
essential" land-based air support all the 
way. In this fashion could Japan best be 
cut off from her conquered territory. An 
attack through the Marshalls, he argued, 
would involve a series of carrier-supported 
amphibious attacks against objectives de- 
fended by naval units, ground troops, and 
land-based aircraft. He made reference to 
Midway as an example of what he con- 
sidered such folly. 8 "Moreover," he main- 
tained, "no vital strategic objective is 
reached until the series of amphibious 
frontal attacks succeed in reaching Min- 
danao." 9 

In the end, none of these arguments was 
deemed compelling enough to dissuade 
the Joint Chiefs of Staff from their inten- 
tion to launch the Central Pacific drive in 
1943. But the fear of diverting too large a 
force from MacArthur's theater was pri- 
marily responsible for the eventual deci- 
sion to initiate that drive against the 
Gilberts rather than directly against the 
Marshalls. 

Even before the receipt of General Mac- 
Arthur's radiogram, the Joint War Plans 
Committee had proposed as a possible 
alternative to a direct strike against the 
Marshalls the preliminary capture of 
islands in the Gilberts as well as Nauru, 
some 390 miles to the westward. The com- 
mittee's general concept embraced simul- 

6 Min, 80th mtg JPS, 13 Jun 43; JWPC 54/1/D, 
14 Jun 43, title: Sequence of Certain Pacific Opns. 

7 Min, 92d mtgJCS, 15 Jun 43; Rad, COMINCH 
to CINCPAC, CM-IN 9983, 16 Jun 43; Rad, JCS 
to MacArthur, CM-OUT 6093, 15 Jun 43. 

8 MacArthur was referring here to the attempted 
Japanese invasion of Midway, which was supported 
exclusively by carrier aircraft. 

9 Rads, MacArthur to Marshall, CM-IN 13149, 20 
Jun 43, and CM-IN 13605, 22 Jun 43. 



22 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



taneous landings on Nauru, and on Makin 
and Tarawa in the Gilberts, to be covered 
by carrier attacks against other Japanese 
bases in the Gilberts and Marshalls. These 
islands, once secured, could then be em- 
ployed as air bases from which to attack 
the Marshalls and reconnoiter the Caro- 
lines. Invasion of the Gilberts and Nauru 
would require, in addition to naval forces, 
one Marine division and and one regi- 
mental combat team, several amphibian 
tractor battalions and other reinforcing 
units, five heavy bomber squadrons, and 
one fighter group. The committee still con- 
sidered this approach to be inferior to 
a direct invasion of the Marshalls, but 
recommended that it be undertaken if 
enough forces could not be mustered for 
the Marshalls. 10 

This proposal to attack the Gilberts 
rather than the Marshalls found immedi- 
ate favor with the Operations Division. It 
would obviously require fewer forces and 
thus be less likely to interfere with Mac- 
Arthur's plans. Although recognizing that 
heavy and medium bombers for the Gil- 
berts could only be provided by taking 
them from somewhere else, the division 
nevertheless expressed itself to Col. Frank 
N. Roberts, then acting as Army member 
of the Joint Staff Planners, as favoring this 
alternative plan. 11 

While various staff planners were thus 
approaching what might be considered a 
compromise between the Central and 
Southwest Pacific concepts of strategy, the 
idea of giving priority to the Central 
Pacific once again received strong support 
on 28 June when the Joint Strategic 
Survey Committee presented its views of 
Pacific strategy to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 
This committee, consisting of Lt. Gen. 
Stanley D. Embick of the Army, Vice 
Adm. Russell Willson of the Navy, and 



Maj. Gen. Muir S. Fairchild of the Army 
Air Forces, pointed out that the Allies in 
the South and Southwest Pacific, by driv- 
ing northward against Rabaul, had been 
attempting to reverse the polarity of the 
Japanese campaign of early 1942. This 
reversal held "small promise of reasonable 
success in the near future." The committee 
therefore recommended that a campaign 
in Nimitz's area be given priority over 
MacArthur's campaign against Rabaul. 
Only in operations against the Marshall 
and Caroline Islands, argued Embick, 
Willson, and Fairchild, was there a chance 
to use the fleet to best advantage. Central 
Pacific advances would also support the de- 
fense of Australia and shorten the line of 
communications to the Southwest Pacific. 
The Strategic Survey Committee therefore 
recommended that seizure of the Marshalls 
and Carolines, which it regarded as the 
best action that could be inaugurated in 
1943, be the first step in the drive toward 
the Celebes Sea. 12 

Next day this committee sat with the 
Joint Chiefs and discussed the suggestions. 
Admiral William D. Leahy, always a 
strong supporter of MacArthur and his 
strategic ideas, pointed out that granting 
priority to the Central Pacific would be a 
"complete reversal" of existing policy and 
projected plans. 13 On the other hand Ad- 
miral King, expressing dissatisfaction with 
the slow "inch-by-inch" progress to date, 
asserted that although Rabaul was im- 
portant, Luzon was even more so, and that 

10 JPS 205/2, 18 Jun 43, title: Opns Against Mar- 
shall Islands. 

11 OPD brief, title: Summation of Memo on Opns 
in CENPAC, with JPS 205/2 in ABC 384 Marshall 
Islands (10 Jun 43), 1; OPD brief, Notes on 94th 
MtgJCS, 29 Jun 43, with JCS 386 in OPD 384 Pa- 
cific (28 Jun 43). 

12 JCS 386, 28 Jun 43, title: Strategy in the Pacific. 

13 Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy, / Was There 
(New York: Whittlesey House, 1950). 



SELECTION OF TARGETS AND TACTICAL PLANNING 



23 



the latter could best be approached by 
way of the Japanese Mandated Islands 
and the Marianas. The Joint Chiefs then 
turned over the committee's recommenda- 
tions to the Joint Staff Planners for further 
study. 14 What emerged was in general a 
vindication of the Central Pacific concept, 
with the qualification that the first steps in 
that direction be made by way of the 
Gilberts. 

On 19 July the Joint Staff Planners sub- 
mitted to the Joint Chiefs a long analysis 
summing up the relative importance of 
Central and Southwest Pacific operations 
as well as a draft of a directive to Admiral 
Nimitz. The Staff Planners recommended 
that continued pressure be applied against 
Rabaul and then in detail spelled out the 
reasons for the desirability of a concurrent 
push through the Central Pacific. Such a 
move, they argued, would have advan- 
tages: ( 1) it would force the Japanese to dis- 
perse their air strength; (2) it would allow 
the United States to use its superior naval 
forces in an area where enemy ground and 
air forces were weak; and (3) it would en- 
large the Allied front facing the Japanese 
and at the same time take place near 
enough to the Solomons to allow naval 
forces to support operations in either or 
both areas. 

The first step in the Central Pacific 
drive, they recommended, should be an in- 
vasion of the Gilberts and Nauru. Good 
air photographs of the Marshalls would be 
required before an invasion there, and the 
islands to the south would provide conven- 
ient bases for air reconnaissance. Capture 
of the Gilberts and Nauru, however, was 
considered only a preliminary to the main 
offensive against the Marshalls and Caro- 
lines — a drive already agreed on by Presi- 
dent Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill, 
and the Combined Chiefs of Staff. The 



Staff Planners therefore recommended 
that the Gilberts and Nauru be invaded 
by Admiral Nimitz' forces about 1 De- 
cember 1943. 15 

Next day (20 July) the Joint Chiefs of 
Staff met to discuss this analysis. Once 
again Admiral Leahy expressed his sym- 
pathy with MacArthur's point of view by 
insisting that the proposed Central Pacific 
drive not be allowed to "interfere with . . . 
operations being conducted by General 
MacArthur. . . ." To this Admiral King 
replied that the invasion of the Gilberts 
would augment rather than curtail Mac- 
Arthur's campaigns. General Marshall 
added that the United States could ill 
afford to let her great carrier forces in the 
Pacific stand idle and agreed that a cam- 
paign in the Central Pacific would be 
helpful to MacArthur's planned offensive 
against Rabaul. General Henry H. Arnold, 
the commanding general of the Army Air 
Forces, agreed with the concept behind 
the new offensive and stated that four 
additional bomber squadrons could be 
provided. The Joint Chiefs thereupon ap- 
proved the Joint Planners' directive but, 
on Admiral King's motion, set 15 Novem- 
ber rather than 1 December as the date for 
the invasion of the Gilberts. 16 

The Joint Chiefs sent Nimitz his orders 
the same day. He was instructed to or- 
ganize and train necessary forces, to "cap- 
ture, occupy, defend, and develop bases in 
the GILBERT GROUP and NAURU" 
on 15 November, and to occupy other 
islands and develop "airfields and facilities 
thereon" as necessary to support the inva- 
sion of the principal objectives. 

All surface forces of the Pacific Fleet 



14 Min, 94th mtgJCS, 29 Jun 43. 

15 JCS 386/1, 19 Jul 43, title: Strategy in the Pacific. 

16 Min, 97th mtg JCS, 20 Jul 43. 



24 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



were available to Nimitz. The Joint Chiefs 
estimated he would require five modern 
battleships, seven old battleships, seven- 
teen carriers (including four light and 
seven escort carriers), and twelve cruisers, 
plus thirty-seven troop transports and 
cargo ships as well as other amphibious 
craft assigned the Central Pacific. Air 
units would include all Pacific Fleet naval 
aircraft except those in the South and 
Southwest Pacific, in addition to elements 
of the Seventh Air Force and the addi- 
tional bomber groups. Ground troops 
would include the 2d Marine Division and 
one Army division not yet designated, 
three Army aviation engineer or construc- 
tion battalions, one port battalion, and 
three Marine defense battalions. Task 
force commanders would be appointed by 
Nimitz. The general concept, the Joint 
Chiefs announced, involved mounting out 
the task forces from Pearl Harbor and the 
Fijis, or from both, and seizing the target 
areas in simultaneous attacks. Cartwheel 
would meanwhile be continued. 

Purpose of the invasion of the Gilberts 
and Nauru, the Joint Chiefs told Nimitz, 
was "to improve the security of lines of 
communication," "to inflict losses on the 
enemy," and "to prepare to gain control of 
the Marshalls." They therefore ordered 
him to prepare plans for seizing the 
Marshalls about 1 February 1944, under 
the assumption that MacArthur would be 
operating against positions in New Guinea, 
the Admiralties, and New Ireland about 
the same time. 17 

With the transmission of these orders to 
Nimitz, there remained but one problem — 
selection of the other division for the Gil- 
berts. Admiral King for some time had 
been advocating withdrawing the 1st 
Marine Division from the Southwest Pa- 
cific, and General Marshall for some time 



had been opposing its withdrawal. 18 On 
22 July King wrote Marshall to urge with- 
drawal of the 1st Marine Division and of 
the 3d Marine Division from the South 
Pacific to "avoid the inevitable conse- 
quences of 'mixed forces.' The Marines are 
by tradition, experience, and training 
eminently suited for amphibious opera- 
tions," especially on the small islands of 
the Central Pacific as contrasted with the 
large land areas in the South and South- 
west Pacific. 19 Marshall replied seven days 
later. He pointed out that removal of the 
two Marine divisions would cause pro- 
found dislocations in shipping as well as 
seriously affect Cartwheel. In his view, 
the 27th Division in Hawaii was the only 
unit, Army or Marine, that could be made 
available without creating great shipping 
problems. It had not yet received its first 
amphibious training but Marshall, stating 
that amphibious training could start at 
once and that by November the division 
should be able to render good service, 
offered the 27th Division. 20 

This offer must have satisfied King, for 
on the last day of July Marshall was in- 
formed that King acceded to the employ- 



ees 386/2, 20 Jul 43, title: Strategy in the Pa- 
cific; RadJCS to CINCPAC, CM-IN 14465, 20 Jul 
43. 

18 Memo, GNO for CofS, 14 Jun 43, sub: With- 
drawal of 1st Marine Div, and Memo, CofS for GNO, 
23 Jun 43, sub: Withdrawal of 1st Marine Div and 
Change of Allocation of 2 Army Divs. Both in OPD 
320.2 Australia 184. 

19 Ltr, CNO to CofS, 22 Jul 43, OPD 381 Secu- 
rity 196. 

20 Capt. Edmund G. Love, The 27th Infantry Divi- 
sion inWorld War II (Washington: Infantry Journal 
Press, 1949), p. 21; Memo, CofS for CNO, 29 Jul 43, 
sub: Release of 1st or 3d Marine Divs for Opns in 
CENPAC, OPD 381 Security 196. General Marshall 
does not seem to have been quite satisfied with the 
status of the 27th Division. See his informal memo 
for Maj. Gen. Thomas T. Handy in OPD 381 Secur- 
ity 196. 



SELECTION OF TARGETS AND TACTICAL PLANNING 



25 



ment of the 27th Division in the Gilberts- 
Nauru operation. 21 

With the preparation of the directive of 
20 July and the designation of ground 
combat forces, then, the Joint Chiefs of 
Staff had laid the strategic groundwork 
for launching the Central Pacific drive 
that would eventually bring American 
and Allied forces almost to the doorstep of 
Japan. Tactical planning for the operation 
was left to the theater commanders in- 
volved. The code name established for the 
operation was Galvanic. 

Planning for Galvanic 

Planning and training responsibilities 
for the forthcoming landings fell eventu- 
ally to six separate headquarters. As in all 
Pacific operations outside of General Mac- 
Arthur's theater, Admiral Nimitz, as Com- 
mander in Chief, Pacific Fleet and Pacific 
Ocean Areas (CINCPAC-CINCPOA), ex- 
ercised supreme command and held ulti- 
mate responsibility for the success of the 
endeavor. Next in the chain of command 
was Vice Adm. Raymond A. Spruance, 
then designated Commander, Central 
Pacific Forces, the highest operational 
fleet command in the theater. Under him 
was the Fifth Amphibious Force, an organ- 
ization that was established on 24 August 
1943 and commanded by Rear Adm. 
Richmond Kelly Turner. 

For purposes of training and controlling 
the troop elements of future amphibious 
landings in the Central Pacific, a separate 
command was created on 4 September 
1943. This was the V Amphibious Corps, 
commanded by Maj. Gen. Holland M. 
Smith, USMC. 22 For this particular opera- 
tion General Smith had at his disposal the 
2d Marine Division, commanded by Maj. 
Gen. Julian C. Smith, USMC, and the 



27th Infantry Division, commanded by 
Maj. Gen. Ralph C. Smith, USA, both of 
whom prepared their own tactical plans 
for assaulting their separate targets. 

Responsibility for preliminary training 
and logistical supply of the Army troops 
committed to the operation fell to the 
headquarters of the Commanding Gen- 
eral, Central Pacific Area, Lt. Gen. Robert 
C. Richardson, Jr., USA. This organiza- 
tion was activated on 14 August 1943 and 
was charged among other things with the 
duty of administering and training all 
Army ground forces and Army air forces 
in the Central Pacific, subject to the direc- 
tion of Admiral Nimitz. 23 

In view of the fact that both the Fifth 
Amphibious Force and V Amphibious 
Corps were undergoing organization dur- 
ing the planning phase of the Gilberts 
operation, much of the burden of devising 
tactical plans for the troops fell originally 
to the staffs of the two divisions involved, 
the 27th Infantry Division and the 2d 
Marine Division. Both were under some 
handicaps. The 2d Marine Division was 
stationed in New Zealand. Its command- 
ing general, General Julian Smith, had 
been alerted by Admiral Spruance early 
in August to the fact that the capture of 
Tarawa and Apamama (Abemama) Atolls 
would be assigned to his forces, but not 
until 15 September was the division for- 
mally attached to V Amphibious Corps 



21 Memo, Vice Adm Richard S. Edwards [CofS to 
King] for Gen Marshall, 31 Jul 43, sub: Designation 
27th Div to Gilbert Opn, OPD 381 Security 196. 

22 Cmdr Fifth Amph Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, 
Rpt of Amph Opns for the Capture of the Gilbert 
Islands, 4 Dec 43 (hereafter cited as Fifth Amph 
Force Rpt, Capture of Gilbert Islands), p. 1. 

23 History of United States Army Forces Middle 
Pacific and Predecessor Commands During World 
War II, 7 December 1941-2 September 1945 (here- 
after cited as USAFMIDPAC Hist) p. 100, MS in 
OCMH. 



26 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



and not until 2 October did General Smith 
and his staff personally report to General 
Holland Smith, the corps commander, in 
Pearl Harbor. 24 Meanwhile, the division 
staff prepared its own plans, which were 
eventually approved with modifications 
by the corps commander. 

For the 27th Infantry Division, tactical 
planning for its particular task was compli- 
cated by a midstream change of objectives. 
The original directive from the Joint 
Chiefs of Staff had assigned the entire divi- 
sion to the capture of Nauru. Acting on 
this directive, the division's staff proceeded 
to gather intelligence data about that 
island from various sources and by early 
October had devised a tentative plan of 
attack employing two regiments in the 
assault with the third regiment (less one 
battalion) in floating reserve. Landing 
beaches were laid out on the northwest 
coast of the island. 25 

Meanwhile, higher headquarters were 
beginning to doubt the feasibility of attack- 
ing Nauru at all. On 19 September V Am- 
phibious Corps submitted a revised esti- 
mate of the situation that "envisaged 
considerable difficulty in the capture of 
Nauru" with the forces made available. 
After further study in conjunction with the 
various Navy echelons involved, it became 
evident that the original concept of Gal- 
vanic should be revised. Nauru offered too 
many hitherto-unsuspected hazards for an 
amphibious attack at this particular time. 
It was about 390 miles west of the western- 
most of the Gilberts and hence would 
place an additional strain on available 
shipping. Simultaneous landings in the 
two places would furthermore necessitate 
a wide dispersal of supporting fleet ele- 
ments — a dangerous division of forces in 
view of the presumed possibility of a Japa- 
nese naval counterattack. Finally, the pre- 



cipitous terrain on Nauru would make an 
amphibious assault and the land fighting 
thereafter too costly to be warranted by 
the strategic advantages to be gained. 
Makin Atoll was considered no less suit- 
able than Nauru as an air base for oper- 
ations against the Marshalls and was 
thought to be considerably less well de- 
fended. Furthermore, the fact that it was 
only about 105 miles north of Tarawa 
made it possible to concentrate the sup- 
porting fleet in one area and thus avoid the 
danger of excessive dispersion. 26 

Hence, on 24 September Admiral Spru- 
ance recommended to Admiral Nimitz 
that the projected invasion of Nauru be 
dropped and that an amphibious landing 
on Makin be substituted. After obtaining 
the consent of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 
Nimitz accepted this recommendation, 
and early in October a revised plan was 
issued to his command. 27 Spruance was 
ordered to seize Makin, Tarawa, and Apa- 
mama, to cover the amphibious landings 
on each of these targets with air and naval 
surface forces, and to deny to the enemy 
use of land bases in the Marshalls and on 



24 Capt. James R. Stockman, USMC, The Battle for 
Tarawa (Washington, 1947). 

The present approved (Board of Geographic 
Names) spelling is "Abemama." As of 1943-44, how- 
ever, "Apamama" was in accepted usage and it was 
this spelling that was uniformly employed in Amer- 
ican military plans and reports. Therefore, the spell- 
ing "Apamama" will be used in this volume. 

25 Participation of the United States Army Forces 
in the Central Pacific Area in Galvanic Operation 
(hereafter cited as USAFICPA Participation Rpt 
Galvanic), pp. 131-37; 27th Inf Div Rpt of G-2 
Activities, Galvanic Opn. 

26 Ltr, Cmdr Fifth Amph Force to COMCENPAC, 
24 Sep 43, sub: Galvanic Opn, Discussion of Sub- 
stitution of Makin as Assault Objective Instead of 
Nauru, Ser 0037, File 1975 Operation and Training 
(Galvanic), Folder I, VAC files, Naval Records 
Management Center, Mechanicsburg, Penna. 

27 V Phib Corps Galvanic Rpt, 1 1 Jan 44, p. 2. 



SELECTION OF TARGETS AND TACTICAL PLANNING 



27 



Nauru during the operation. 28 D Day for 
the landings was originally set as 19 No- 
vember 1943. A month later this was post- 
poned one day, to 20 November. 29 

Intelligence on the Gilberts 

From the very outset of the planning 
phase of the Gilberts operation, the chief 
hurdle to be overcome was the initial ab- 
sence of much reliable information about 
the physical nature of the target islands 
and of the disposition of the enemy de- 
fenses thereon. The most critical gap in 
American intelligence, and one never satis- 
factorily filled, was the lack of any very 
precise hydrographic data. Charts pub- 
lished by the Navy's Hydrographic Office 
were so out of date and so inaccurate as to 
be worse than useless. Also, published tide 
tables were sketchy in the information they 
contained. They listed only a few of the 
Central Pacific islands and for these the 
figures given for high and low tides were in 
reference to points as distant as Valparaiso 
in Chile and Apia in Samoa, thus render- 
ing them highly unreliable. 30 

It is axiomatic that in amphibious oper- 
ations reasonably accurate data on tides 
and on hydrographic conditions offshore 
of the proposed landing beaches are essen- 
tial. On such information hinges the solu- 
tion to such important problems as what is 
the best time of day, month, and year to 
launch the operation, what beaches are 
most accessible, and what type of landing 
craft can be employed to get troops ashore 
in proper order with a minimum danger 
of capsizing, grounding, broaching, or be- 
ing swept off course by tidal currents. 

In obtaining this essential information, 
as well as intelligence of the probable num- 
ber and disposition of enemy troops and 
defense installations on the islands, intelli- 



gence officers of the appropriate staffs had 
to rely on three main sources — aerial re- 
connaissance, submarine reconnaissance, 
and reports from British citizens who had 
lived or traveled in the Gilberts. 

Photographic coverage of Tarawa was 
made on 18-19 September and on 20 
October, and of Makin on 23 July and 13 
October. Excellent vertical and oblique 
shots of Tarawa were obtained, both of 
great value in studying beaches and locat- 
ing weapons and installations. For Makin, 
the vertical photographs were good, but 
no large-scale obliques were turned in and 
this hampered considerably the study of 
hydrographic conditions as well as the in- 
terpretation of installations. 31 

Additional and highly detailed informa- 
tion was received from a reconnaissance 
mission of the submarine USS Nautilus 
conducted in late September and early 
October. From this vessel's report much of 
the missing data on hydrographic and 
beach conditions on both of the main 
islands could be filled in. Information as 
to condition of surf, reefs, and beaches, 
characteristics of lagoon entrances, current 
data, tidal data, and so forth, was sup- 
plied. Periscopic photographs of the beach 
lines showed many more details than had 
appeared on the aerial photographs. 32 

28 CINGPAC-GINCPOA Opns Plan 13-43, 5 Oct 
43. 

29 Fifth Amph Force Rpt, Capture of Gilbert Is- 
lands, Annex A, p. 5. Both of these target dates were 
arbitrarily fixed as west longitude dates, although the 
Gilberts lie in east longitude about seven degrees west 
of the international date line. During this operation 
then, the target islands were presumed to be in plus- 
twelve time zone, although actually lying west of it. 
In effect this meant that all local date-time groups 
during the operation were computed as Greenwich 
civil time minus twelve hours. 

30 Fifth Amph Force Rpt, Capture of Gilbert Isl- 
ands, Incl C, p. 2. 

31 V Phib Corps Galvanic Rpt, Incl C, p. 2. 

32 Fifth Amph Force Rpt, Capture of Gilbert Is- 
lands, Incl C, p. 2. 



28 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 




MAP 3 



Finally, during September and October, 
a total of sixteen former residents or trav- 
elers in the islands were attached to Ad- 
miral Turner's staff to supply additional 
information from memory. These included 
Australian, New Zealand, and Fiji naval 
reserve officers, officials of the Western 
Pacific High Commission, Australian 
Army reserve officers and enlisted men, 
and civilians. Part of this group was sent 
to Wellington to assist the 2d Marine Divi- 
sion. 33 Others, more familiar with Makin, 
worked directly with the staff on Oahu. 
Among the latter were Lt. Comdr. Ger- 



hard H. Heyen, R.A.N., and Pvt. Fred C. 
Narruhn, 1st Fiji Infantry Regiment, a 
native of Makin. Private Narruhn was as- 
signed directly to the 27th Division's intel- 
ligence section and was particularly help- 
ful in providing necessary information for 
planning that operation. Another source 
of information made available to the divi- 
sion shortly before it sailed was Lt. Col. 
James Roosevelt, USMCR, who had been 
a member of the 2d Marine Raider Bat- 
talion under Lt. Col. Evans F. Carlson, 



Stockman, Tarawa, p. 4. 



SELECTION OF TARGETS AND TACTICAL PLANNING 



29 





BUTARITARI FROM THE AIR. Navy Wildcat fighters over the island on 20 November 
1943. 



USMC, which had staged a raid on Makin 
on 16 August 1942. 34 

Final Intelligence Estimates: Makin 

On the basis of these various sources of 
information, V Amphibious Corps and the 
two division headquarters committed to 
the Gilberts were able to draw up reason- 
ably complete and on the whole not too 
inaccurate estimates of the geographical 
nature and defensive strength of the target 
islands. 

Makin is an atoll located approximately 
2,000 nautical miles southwest of Oahu. It 
is north of Tarawa by about 105 miles, 
southeast of Kwajalein in the Marshalls by 



450 miles, and east of Truk by 1,265 miles. 
The atoll is t riangular in shape enclosing a 
large lagoon. {Map 3) The southeastern leg 
of the triangle holds the main land forma- 
tion, consisting of two long islands, Butari- 
tari and Kuma, which with their connect- 
ing reef are about thirteen miles long and 
average five hundred yards in width with 
the highest land point rising no more than 
twelve feet above sea level. Butaritari was 
rightly believed to contain the largest 
number of natives, the entire population of 
the atoll being estimated as about 1,700 at 



34 27th Inf Div Rpt of G-2 Activities, Galvanic 
Opn, p. 6; Ltr, Maj Gen Ralph Smith, USA (Ret), 
to Chief. HD SSUSA, 31 Jan 49, Incl, p. 2, OCMH. 



30 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



the time of the Japanese occupation in 
December 1941. 

Butaritari, according to the 27th Divi- 
sion's G-2 terrain study, was "shaped like 
a crutch with the armrest facing generally 
West and the leg of the crutch pointing 
East and slightly North." 35 For purposes 
of tactical study the island was divided into 
three parts. The extreme western area, that 
is the armrest of the crutch, was thought to 
be generally of good substantial footing 
with scattered coconut trees and sand brush 
on the northern part and thick coconut 
groves interspersed with bobai (taro) pits in 
the southern. East of this area was a stretch 
of land designated the inland lagoon area. 
Except near the shore this was believed 
swampy, covered with saltbrush, and im- 
passable in many parts for vehicles. Near 
the geographical center of the island was 
the main village of Butaritari situated on 
fairly dry ground. The easternmost seg- 
ment of the island was believed to contain 
good land, with some bobai pits and gradu- 
ally thickening coconut growth as the ex- 
treme eastern tip was approached. A road 
had been observed running from Ukian- 
gong Village, near the southwest point, in 
a northerly direction about half way out 
Flink Point, a promontory on the north- 
west side. The road connected with an- 
other that ran in a northeasterly direction 
along the north shore of the island to its 
eastern tip. A short cross-island road ran 
through Butaritari Village from the north- 
ern (lagoon) to the southern (ocean) shore. 

On the all-important question of suit- 
able spots for landing, it was believed that 
the best beaches were those on the lagoon 
(north) shore and on the southern half of 
the west coast of the island. On the west 
coast the reef was thought to be very close 
to the beach, therefore offering no particu- 
lar hazard to ordinary landing craft. On 



the lagoon side, the reef was estimated to 
extend 500 to 1,500 yards out from the 
shore, but was considered to be flat and 
even enough to permit troop landings at 
the reef's edge. Four prominent landmarks 
presented themselves on the lagoon side. 
These were, from west to east, On Chong's 
Wharf, King's Wharf, Stone Pier, and 
Government Wharf. All projected far 
enough into the lagoon to be useful as 
guide marks for landing craft. 

No particular difficulties were contem- 
plated by the division planners from tidal 
or hydrographic conditions. It was be- 
lieved that single boats could land at 
almost any point on the island during high 
water and two hours before and after high 
water. This was an error as events were 
soon to prove. Had the division planners 
carefully consulted Admiral Turner's oper- 
ation plan, they would have discovered 
that during periods of neap tide (and 20 
November fell in such a period) standard 
Navy landing craft would be grounded on 
the reef off the lagoon shore some 100-150 
yards out. 36 

The Japanese garrison on Butaritari was 
estimated to be from 500 to 800 troops 
consisting of one rifle company, one field 
battery of four heavy antiaircraft guns, and 
two antiaircraft machine gun batteries 
totaling four medium antiaircraft guns and 
twenty machine guns. 37 It was apparent 



35 27th Inf Div FO 21, 23 Oct 43, App 1 to Annex 
2, p. 1. The account given here of intelligence esti- 
mates of Makin is derived from this appendix and 
the situation map of Butaritari Island, Makin Atoll, 
prepared by G-2, V Phib Corps. 

36 TF 54 Opn Plan A2-43, 23 Oct 43, Annex B, 
p. 21. 

37 27th Inf Div FO 21, Annex 2, p. 1; V Phib Corps 
Galvanic Rpt, Incl C, p. 3. The estimate given in the 
situation map prepared by G-2, V Phib Corps, dif- 
fered as follows: heavy AA guns, 3 definite; medium 
A A guns, 1 definite, 10 possible; machine guns, 24 
definite, 89 possible. 



SELECTION OF TARGETS AND TACTICAL PLANNING 



31 



from aerial photographs that the enemy 
had concentrated the major part of his de- 
fenses in the central area of the island 
around Butaritari Village. This fortified 
area was bounded on east and west by 
tank traps running generally in a zigzag 
path from lagoon to ocean shore. 38 

Final Intelligence Estimates: Tarawa 

Tarawa, like Makin, is a triangular coral 
atoll and is roughly 18 miles long on the 
east side, 12 miles long on the south side, 
and 12.5 miles long on the west side. None 
of the small islands comprising the atoll 
rises to m ore than ten feet above sea level. 
\{Map4) 

The entire west leg of the triangle con- 
sists of a barrier reef through which there 
is only one entrance into the lagoon pass- 
able by deep-draft vessels. Just 3.5 miles 
south of this entrance lies the island of 
Betio, resting on the southwest corner of 
the triangle. It was here that the Japanese 
had constructed an airfield and had con- 
centrated their major defenses. It was here 
that the first major amphibious assault by 
American forces in the Central Pacific 
would take place. 

Betio itself is surrounded on all sides by 
reefs. Along the south shore the reef ex- 
tends to a uniform distance of about 600 
yards from the high-water line. On the 
narrow west shore it varies from 800 to 
1 ,200 yards at the extreme southwest point 
of the island where strong rip currents oc- 
cur. Off the north shore, facing the lagoon, 
also lies a fringing reef, but this is wider 
and shelves more gradually than the reefs 
elsewhere. This, plus the fact that the 
lagoon was on the lee side of the island and 
somewhat sheltered from heavy swells, 
made this coast line the most desirable for 
landing operations. 39 



Most of these facts were known to plan- 
ners of the operation as a result of aerial 
and submarine photographs and consulta- 
tion with former residents and visitors 
familiar with the atoll. What was not 
known with any certainty, however, was 
the condition of prevailing tides in the area. 
The central problem that plagued all 
planners of the Tarawa operation was the 
question of the probable height of water 
over the fringing reef off the north coast of 
Betio. The 2d Marine Division, which was 
assigned to the operation, had available 
only a limited number (eventually 125) of 
amphibian tractors. These vehicles, which 
could carry about twenty troops each, were 
equipped to operate both through water 
and overland, and to them reefs offered no 
particular obstacle. However, there were 
not enough on hand to transport all of the 
necessary assault troops from ship to shore. 
The remainder would have to be carried 
in standard "Higgins boats" (LCVP's) 
which, when fully loaded, drew at least 3.5 
feet. Thus about four feet of water above 
the reef was essential if the landing craft 
were to carry the assault troops from ship 
to shore without interruption. 

To complicate matters further the date 
chosen for the invasion was in a period of 
neap tide at Tarawa. Neap tides occur 
during the first and third quarters of the 
moon. During these times the range of 
tide, that is the difference between high 
and low water, is at its lowest point and 
high tides are lower than usual. Thus, the 
probability of there being sufficient water 
over the reef even at high tide on the par- 



38 V Phib Corps G-2 Situation Map, Butaritari 
Island. 

39 2d Marine Div, Special Action Rpt, 6 Jan 44, 
Incl A, Narrative Account of the Gilbert Islands 
Opn, p. 3. 



32 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



TARAWA ATOLL 




f*fMWf TO LAGOON 



)T3'E 



MAP 4 



ticular date chosen for the invasion was 
decreased. 40 

These problems were all appreciated by 
planners on both corps and divisional 
levels, but their sources of information were 
contradictory. Admiral Turner's intelli- 
gence staff, as for Makin, made a correct 
estimate of tidal conditions at Tarawa on 



the proposed day of landing. His operation 
plan reads in part: "During high water 
neap tides the reef [that is, the lagoon reef] 



40 For a more complete discussion of the question 
of tides at Tarawa, see Jeter A. Isely and Philip A. 
Crowl, The U. S. Marines and Amphibious War (Prince- 
ton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1951), 
Ch. VI. 



SELECTION OF TARGETS AND TACTICAL PLANNING 



33 



off the north coast of Betio is covered by 
from one to two feet of water. . . ." 41 If 
this analysis were to be believed, then it 
was obvious that nothing but amphibian 
tractors could negotiate the reef on 20 
November, which was known to fall in the 
period of neap tide. Standard landing craft 
drawing from three to four feet would be 
grounded on the reef. Admiral Turner's 
staff also knew that during neap tides a 
"dodging" tide frequently occurred at 
Tarawa, that is, the tide instead of follow- 
ing the usual semidiurnal pattern, ebbed 
and flowed several times in twenty-four 
hours. 42 This might further complicate the 
problem of getting standard landing craft 
ashore, even through channels blown in 
the reef. 

Either this information was improperly 
understood or it was disbelieved, because 
up to the very date of the landing there 
was still hope that at Betio there would be 
enough water over the reef to float stand- 
ard landing craft. This hope was nurtured 
by several former residents of the Gilberts 
and shipmasters who had navigated the 
adjacent waters. All but one of these con- 
sulted by the staff of the 2d Marine Divi- 
sion affirmed that five feet of water could 
be expected over the reef at Betio at high 
tide. The single exception was Maj. F. L. G. 
Holland, a British officer who had lived on 
Bairiki, the island adjacent to Betio, for 
fifteen years. During the Marine division's 
final rehearsals on Efate in the New Heb- 
rides before sailing for the target island, 
Major Holland announced that during 
neap tide periods less than three feet of 
water could be expected at high tide. 43 

Major Holland was right and in general 
his pessimism was shared by General Julian 
Smith, the 2d Marine Division's com- 
mander. At least his troops were briefed to 
expect no more than a fifty-fifty chance of 



getting into the shore on Betio in boats. 44 
As events turned out even this was far too 
optimistic an estimate. 

Although hydrographic information for 
Tarawa was faulty, the prelanding intelli- 
gence of Japanese troop strength and de- 
fense dispositions was excellent. This was 
largely derived from aerial and submarine 
photographs assembled by the Joint Intel- 
ligence Center, Pacific Ocean Areas, and 
interpreted by that headquarters and by 
the intelligence section of the 2d Marine 
Division. As of 1 1 November, the division 
estimated enemy troop strength on Betio 
alone to be not less than 2,500 and not 
more than 3,100, 45 a prediction that post- 
battle studies proved to be remarkably 
accurate. Betio was known to be far more 
heavily fortified than Makin. From aerial 
photographs it appeared that the north 
shore was defended by an elaborate system 
of fire trenches, rifle pits, coastal and anti- 
aircraft weapons, antiboat emplacements, 
and machine gun positions. Defenses on 
the west and south shores were thought to 
be similar in all respects, including density. 

On this tiny, narrow island only three 
miles long and less than six hundred yards 
across at its widest point, the Japanese 
were believed to have 8 or 9 coastal defense 
guns, 12 heavy antiaircraft guns ranging 
from 75-mm. to 12-cm., 12 medium anti- 
aircraft guns from 40-mm. to less than 
75-mm., 81 antiboat positions for weapons 



41 TF 54 Opn Plan A2-43, 23 Oct 43, Annex B, 
p. 11. 

42 Ibid., p. 29. 

43 Stockman, Tarawa, p. 4; Interv, Jeter A. Isely 
with Lt Gen Julian C. Smith, USMC (Ret), 28 Oct 
48, on file, Princeton University Library, Princeton, 
N.J. 

44 Interv cited n. 43; Memo, Lt Col William C. 
Chamberlin, USMC, for Jeter A. Isley, 29 May 50, 
on file, Princeton University Library, Princeton, N.J. 

45 2d Marine Div Opn Order 14, 25 Oct 43, Ad- 
dendum 1 to App 1 to Annex D, 1 1 Nov 43. 



34 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



Chart 1 — Task Organization of Various Commands for the Attack on the Gilbert 

Islands 



Cenrral Pctitir Fmt» 
Vie. Adffl R. A, Sprint. 



Toth Fertt 50 

ComiT FlJlCt 



Hq SupfKJ>! 

A..r..7 ; - 

Cot w, o. 

EcrttLlCn, USA 



Tmlc Fm* 54 
AiMult Force 
Rear Adrn ft. K. Tu 



Natihrm 

C • c 
Riar Aijir 

A. W. RodFord 



Souriiem 
Carrier 
GtODp 
R«q< Adn 



Hq V Pnib Co*™ 
Mai Gtn H. M. 

Sniih, USMC 



Tewtt Force 5? 
D<r«ntc Fonct and 
Shore 'Baud A It 

fteor Ad™ J, H, Hootv 



Tailc Force 52 
N. v AUncL Forte 

(Motilnj 
R, r AJm R. K. Tumit 



A,r 



I 
-I 



Tcib Fare. 53 
Seu'nnn Allot k Foree 



R«o- Aim 



H.I I 



\ 



- . Operalianol ;cnl.icl a! oirrrah oveihead in combol area 



1 

I 

I 



SoiKhcm Landing Force 



Air 



of sizes ranging from heavy machine guns 
to 40-mm. guns, and 52 light weapons. 46 
There was good reason to believe that this 
would be the fiercest amphibious battle yet 
fought in the Pacific. 

Organization and Command of the 
American Forces 

Admiral Spruance's Operation Plan 
Number Cen 1-43 was issued on 25 Octo- 
ber and, subject to some subsequent modi- 
fications, set forth the command organiza- 
tion of the Galvanic operation and 
outlined the tasks assigned to each sub- 
ordinate command. The immediate task of 
capturing and occupying Makin, Tarawa, 



and Apamama, of destroying inferior 
enemy surface forces attempting to inter- 
fere with the landing operations, and of 
initiating the establishment of advance 
bases and the construction of airfields on 
the three islands was assigned to Admiral 
Turner's assault force (Task Force 54). This 
was in turn subdivided into a Northern 
Attack Force (Task Force 52), also com- 
manded by Admiral Turner, and a South- 
ern Attack Force (Task Force 53) under 
Rear Adm. Harry W. Hill, USN, plus 
sundry other lesser task groups including 
a reconnaissance group for Apamama, and 



46 2d Marine Div Opn Order 14, 25 Oct 43, App 
1 to Annex D; Ibid., Addendum 1,11 Nov 43. 



SELECTION OF TARGETS AND TACTICAL PLANNING 



35 



garrison groups for the three islands. The 
duty of the Northern Attack Force was to 
capture Makin; that of the Southern At- 
tack Force to take Tarawa and Apamama. 



(Chart. 1) 



The main troop components of the 
Northern Attack Force were to consist of 
the 165th Regimental Combat Team (re- 
inforced) of the 27th Infantry Division. 
This combat team plus units of the 7th 
Army Defense Battalion and various serv- 
ice units were to constitute the Northern 
Landing Force, under command of Gen- 
eral Ralph Smith. The parallel command 
for the seizure of Tarawa was the Southern 
Landing Force, consisting mainly of the 
2d Marine Division plus assigned units of 
the 2d and 8th Marine Defense Battalions, 
all under command of General Julian 
Smith. A separate task group was set up 
for occupying Apamama. The command- 
ing officer of the submarine Nautilus, 
Comdr. Donald G. Irvine, USN, was di- 
rected to land a reconnaissance platoon of 
V Amphibious Corps on that presumably 
undefended island some time after the 
main landings on Tarawa and Makin. 

To transport the 165th Regimental 
Combat Team and its supplies and equip- 
ment to Makin, Admiral Turner was able 
to allocate four attack transports (APA's), 
one attack cargo ship (AKA), one LSD, 
and nine LST's. To screen the transports 
and LST's, and to provide naval gunfire 
and aerial support for the landing on 
Makin, a total of four old battleships, four 
heavy cruisers, thirteen destroyers, and 
three escort carriers (CVE's) was pro- 
vided. 47 To the 2d Marine Division for the 
assault on Tarawa was assigned one trans- 
port (AP), 48 twelve attack transports, three 
attack cargo ships, one LSD, and twelve 
LST's. To screen these vessels and to bom- 
bard the shore at Tarawa, Southern Attack 



Force had a total of three battleships, three 
heavy cruisers, three light cruisers, twenty- 
one destroyers, and five escort carriers. 49 

Thus, about equal shares of naval gun- 
fire support were apportioned to the 
Makin and Tarawa landings, although it 
was known that the latter would be by far 
the more formidable target. If the only 
problem involved in the operation had 
been that of landing troops on the two 
islands, then logic would have dictated al- 
locating a far heavier portion of naval 
gunfire support to the Southern Landing 
Force. As it was, purely naval consider- 
ations prompted a more equal division of 
fire power. Makin was more than a hun- 
dred miles closer than Tarawa to the Mar- 
shall and if any major sortie by the 
elements of the Japanese fleet should de- 
velop, it would probably be from that 
direction. Hence, it was considered pru- 
dent to dispose a good part of the Amer- 
ican combat vessels in a position where it 
could more quickly intercept a Japanese 
naval counterattack. 50 

Within Admiral Turner's assault force 
(Task Force 54), but not enjoying any 
clear-cut authority, was the Commander, 
V Amphibious Corps, General Holland 
Smith. During the planning and training 
phase, both the 2d Marine Division and 
the 27th Infantry Division were clearly at- 
tached to Holland Smith's headquarters 



47 TF 52 Amph Attack Order A3-43, 23 Oct 43; 
Fifth Amph Force Rpt, Capture of Gilbert Islands, 
p. 5. 

48 The main differences between the AP and APA 
were that the latter carried more landing craft and 
was better constructed and rigged to unload assault 
troops and their supplies rapidly. 

49 Fifth Amph Force Rpt, Capture of Gilbert Is- 
lands, p. 5; TF 53 Opn Order A104-43 (Revised), 4 
Nov 43, pp. 1-2. 

50 COMCENPACFOR, Gen Instr to all Flag Of- 
ficers, CENPACFOR, for Gilberts Opn, 29 Oct 43, 
Naval History Division. 



36 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



and were under his command. 51 But for 
the operational phase, his position in the 
chain of command was ambiguous. Ad- 
miral Spruance's operation plan provided 
that the "Commanding General Fifth 
Amphibious Corps will be embarked in 
the flagship of the Assault Force [Task Force 
54] and will command all landing force 
troops." 52 However, by the same order, 
all directives by Commander, V Amphib- 
ious Corps, had to be approved by Ad- 
miral Turner as Commander, Assault 
Force, before they could be issued. Fur- 
thermore, the only authority specifically 
delegated to Holland Smith under Ad- 
miral Turner's own operation plan was 
that "Commanding General, Fifth Am- 
phibious Corps, embarked in the Force 
Flagship of the Commander Assault Force, 
will advise the Commander Assault Force in 
regard to the employment of the Landing 
Forces at each objective and the employ- 
ment of reserve troops . . . ." 53 

On the question of the immediate com- 
mand of troops to be committed ashore at 
Makin and Tarawa, both Spruance's and 
Turner's orders bypassed Holland Smith. 
At both objectives the related attack force 
commanders — Turner, Commander, Task 
Force 52, at Makin, and Hill, Commander, 
Task Force 53, at Tarawa — were to com- 
mand the troops through the appropriate 
landing force commanders (that is, Gen- 
eral Ralph Smith, USA, at Makin and 
General Julian Smith, USMC, at Tarawa). 
These last two officers would assume com- 
mand ashore only when Admiral Turner, 
as commander of the assault force, should 
so direct. 54 

In other words, General Holland Smith 
was given no tactical command over 
troops. 55 His capacity during the operation 
was merely that of an adviser to Admiral 
Turner. However, there is evidence that 



in his own mind General Smith believed 
that he held a more exalted position. 
Later, he wrote, "As soon as the assault 
waves hit the beach the status of my com- 
mand was parallel, not inferior to, Kelly 
Turner's." 56 This misconception could 
easily have arisen from the paragraph of 
Admiral Spruance's operation plan cited 
above, which seemed to give the V Am- 
phibious Corps commander command 
over "all landing force troops." The con- 
fusion was further compounded when at 
the last minute Admiral Nimitz issued a 
directive removing General Holland 
Smith's name from the command. Smith 
protested and at last, in his own words, 
"Admiral Spruance insisted that I go 
along." 57 Go he did, but as an adviser, not 
a troop commander. 

Comparable to, but not exactly anal- 
ogous with, the position of General Smith 
in the chain of command was that of the 
Commander, Support Aircraft, Col. Wil- 
liam O. Eareckson, AAF. At this juncture 
in the Pacific war, the Navy's develop- 
ment of a centralized system of ground 
control of support aircraft in amphibious 
operations was still in a formative stage. At 
Guadalcanal Admiral Turner had set up 
a rather hasty, temporary control organ- 
ization for aircraft assigned to troop sup- 
port. Under his plan, during the amphib- 
ious phase of the operation, all troop 
support aircraft were controlled by an air 
support director group attached to his staff 

"Stockman, Tarawa, p. 3; USAFMIDPAC Hist, 
Vol I, pp. 108-09. 

52 COMCENPACFOR Opn Plan Cen 1 -43, p. 1 1 . 

53 TF 54 Opn Plan A2-43, 23 Oct 43, p. 9. 

54 COMCENPACFOR Opn Plan Cen 1-43, p. 12; 
TF 54 Opn Plan A2-43, 23 Oct 43, p. 10. 

53 Ltr. Adm Turner to Maj Gen Harry J. Malony, 
USA, Chief, HD SSUSA, 17 Jan 49, OCMH. 

56 Holland M. Smith, Coral and Brass (New York: 
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1949), p. 113. 

57 Ibid., p. 117. 



SELECTION OF TARGETS AND TACTICAL PLANNING 



37 



and aboard his flagship, the USS McCaw- 
ley, with a similar stand-by group aboard 
the USS Neville, which was assigned to 
waters off Tulagi. In addition, a fighter 
squadron, flown from carriers located far 
out at sea and assigned the duties of com- 
bat air patrol in the immediate area of the 
landing, was controlled by Rear Adm. 
Victor A. C. Crutchley, R.N., Turner's 
second in command, through a fighter di- 
rector group located aboard the USS 
Chicago. 59, 

Although this plan did not permit com- 
pletely centralized control, it did embody 
two important principles. First, all aircraft 
in the objective area were under command 
of units on board ships actually present. 
Secondly, after the initially scheduled 
strikes, all missions for troop support air- 
craft were established by the air support 
director group aboard the force flagship 
as a result of requests from the command- 
ers of the landing forces, that is, of the 
troops ashore. 

After his appointment to the post of 
Commander, Fifth Amphibious Force, 
Central Pacific, Admiral Turner sought to 
capitalize on his experience at Guadal- 
canal by setting up an air support control 
organization on a permanent basis. But he 
found little enthusiasm for the project 
among naval air circles at Pearl Harbor 
and no naval aviator who, in his opinion, 
had sufficient rank or experience to do the 
job. However, in the person of Colonel 
Eareckson, then temporarily attached to 
Admiral Nimitz's headquarters, he dis- 
covered an aviator who met his require- 
ments. Colonel Eareckson had acted as an 
air co-ordinator and air-ground liaison of- 
ficer for close support missions flown by 
planes of the Eleventh Air Force during 
the invasion of Attu in May 1943. 59 Al- 
though he had not previously worked with 



naval aircraft, he was borrowed from Ad- 
miral Nimitz's staff for the Gilberts oper- 
ation and designated Commander, Sup- 
port Aircraft. 

The scope of his duties and authority for 
the forthcoming invasion was not made 
entirely clear in the covering operation 
plans, the ambiguity being a reflection of 
a yet unmatured conception of the role of 
close air support control in naval amphib- 
ious doctrine. According to Operation 
Plan A2-43, issued by Admiral Turner as 
commander of the assault force for the en- 
tire Gilberts operation (Task Force 54), 
"The Commander Support Aircraft, GAL- 
VANIC [Eareckson], embarked in the 
Force Flagship of the Commander Assault 
Force [Turner], will advise the Commander 
Assault Force in regard to the employment 
of support aircraft at all objectives." 60 
In another paragraph of the same plan it 
is stated, "At each objective, during the 
assault, the related Attack Force Com- 
manders [that is, Turner at Makin, and 
Hill at Tarawa] will command the support 
aircraft through the Air Commander of 
the base to be established at the objec- 
tive. . . ." 61 

This would seem to indicate that Colo- 
nel Eareckson's position in the chain of 
command was, like General Holland 
Smith's, merely that of adviser to the as- 
sault force commander, Admiral Turner. 
Also, according to the above cited plan, 
the attack force commander at each ob- 
jective would presumably exercise direct 
command over support aircraft through 
the air base commander ashore, once such 
bases were established. However, in prac- 

58 Ltr, Adm Turner to Gen Ward, 30 Oct 50, pp. 
1-2, OCMH; Miller, Guadalcanal, pp. 37-39. 

59 Craven and Cate, AAF IV, pp. 382-86. 

80 TF 54 Opn Plan A2-43, 23 Oct 43, par. 5(d). 
61 Ibid., par. 5(f). 



38 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



tice, this was not to be the case. Since this 
command setup had been ordained by di- 
rectives from higher authority, it could not 
be changed. But Admiral Turner did suc- 
ceed in radically modifying the arrange- 
ment by directing that at both Tarawa 
and Makin flight leaders of combat air 
patrols, upon being relieved from this type 
of duty, should report to the Commander, 
Support Aircraft, and be prepared to 
strafe ground installations as directed by 
him before returning to their carriers. To 
insure safety to the ground troops, pilots 
were warned that it was "imperative that 
strafing attacks be delivered only as di- 
rected by the Support Aircraft Com- 
mander." 62 Also, supporting aircraft at 
both Makin and Tarawa were ordered to 
maintain twelve scout bomber planes and 
six torpedo bomber planes on each station 
during daylight at an "initial point" desig- 
nated by the support aircraft commander 
to give direct support to ground troops and 
to replace the Support Aircraft Group as 
requested by the support aircraft com- 
mander. In addition, antisubmarine patrol 
aircraft were ordered to report to the sup- 
port aircraft commander upon arrival on 
and departure from station. 63 

As it finally went into effect, then, the 
duties of the support aircraft commander 
both at Makin and at Tarawa were made 
more positive than had originally been 
contemplated. Colonel Eareckson, who 
would sail aboard Turner's flagship, was 
given general direction over close air sup- 
port and antisubmarine patrol for the 
whole assault force (Task Force 54). In 
addition, he had direct command duties 
with respect to support aircraft of the at- 
tack force at Makin (Task Force 52). For 
the Tarawa phase, a second commander 
of support aircraft was assigned to Task 
Force 53 and accompanied Admiral Hill 
on his flagship Maryland, from which he 



too would directly command close air sup- 
port and antisubmarine patrol at that 
objective. 64 In later amphibious landings 
in the Central Pacific this allocation of air 
responsibilities was formalized and clar- 
ified, but it was in the Gilberts operation, 
in spite of some confusion in the covering 
plans, that this subsequent development 
was clearly forecast. 

Aerial support, both tactical and strate- 
gic, was to be provided in the main by two 
separate task forces. The carrier force 
(Task Force 50) was under command of 
Rear Adm. Charles A. Pownall, USN, 
and consisted of six large and five small 
carriers with their accompanying battle- 
ships, cruisers, and destroyers. The bulk 
of this force was assigned the task of de- 
stroying enemy aircraft and defenses on 
Tarawa on D minus 2 and D minus 1 and 
on Mille, Jaluit, and Makin on D minus 1. 
At the same time, planes from this force 
were to photograph both Makin and 
Tarawa and deliver copies, together with 
information of sea conditions at landing 
beaches, to Admirals Turner and Hill on 
their respective flagships. On D Day and 
daily thereafter they were to conduct early 
morning searches to the north and west of 
the Gilberts and to provide air support for 
the land operations. One relief group of 
this task force was ordered to destroy air- 
craft and air harbor facilities on Nauru by 
both air and surface bombardment. 65 

All shore-based aircraft for the oper- 
ation were organized into Task Force 57 
under the command of Rear Adm. John 
H. Hoover. The Seventh Air Force pro- 
vided Admiral Hoover with both fighters 
and bombers. Ninety heavy bombers were 



62 TF 54 Opn Plan A2-43, 23 Oct 43, Annex C, 
pp. 4, 10. 

63 Ibid., pp. 4, 10, 11. 

64 Ltr, Turner to Ward, 30 Oct 50, pp. 4-6. 

65 CENPACFOR Opn Plan Cen 1-43, pp. 4-5, 8-9. 



SELECTION OF TARGETS AND TACTICAL PLANNING 



39 



organized into Task Group 57.2, com- 
manded by Maj. Gen. Willis H. Hale, 
AAF. Fifty-six Navy patrol bombers were 
placed in Task Group 57.3 under direct 
command of Admiral Hoover. A third task 
group (57.4) consisted of ninety Marine 
fighter planes, seventy-two Marine scout 
bombers, twenty-four scout and utility 
planes, and sundry Army and Navy trans- 
port planes — all to be based on the Ellice 
Islands and all under command of Brig. 
Gen. Lewie G. Merritt, USMC. 

Task Force 57 was to attack enemy air 
bases at Tarawa, Nauru, Mille, Jaluit, and 
such other enemy positions in the Mar- 
shall as were within range. The force was 
to conduct photographic reconnaissances 
of Kwajalein, Wotje, Maloelap, Mille, and 
Jaluit, all in the Marshalls. Starting on D 
minus 3, it was to conduct long-range 
searches in areas not covered by carrier 
planes. Other general duties were to attack 
enemy ships and shipping, defend Amer- 
ican bases in the Ellice and Gilbert Islands, 
and provide air transportation. 66 

All of this air power was in addition to 
the planes attached to the two attack 
forces. At Makin, three escort carriers 
would accompany Admiral Turner's 
Northern Attack Force. Admiral Hill's 
Southern Attack Force at Tarawa would 
enjoy the support of five such vessels. 67 

Admiral Turner's Plan for the Attack 

The general plan for the operation, as 
worked out by Admiral Turner in con- 
junction with the staff of V Amphibious 
Corps, contemplated the simultaneous 
capture of Makin by the 165th Regimental 
Combat Team of the 27th Infantry Divi- 
sion and of Tarawa by the 2d Marine Divi- 
sion, reinforced. One regimental combat 
team of the Marine division (later desig- 
nated the 6th RCT) was to be held as 



corps reserve for the support of one or both 
of these operations or for the subsequent 
occupation of Apamama. This corps re- 
serve was to be employed only as author- 
ized by Admiral Turner as Commander, 
Task Force 54, on the advice of General 
Holland Smith. 68 

The assault was to be made initially by 
troops carried in amphibian tractors, some 
fitted with grapnels for destroying wire 
and thus opening boat routes to the 
beaches. The tractors would be carried to 
the target areas in LST's, each of which 
had space in its tank deck for seventeen 
vehicles. The amphibian tractors would 
be followed by troops in LCVP's (landing 
craft, vehicle and personnel) and by me- 
dium tanks transported in LCM's (land- 
ing craft, mechanized), which would be 
carried forward by Navy transports and 
by LSD's. 

On D Day at both Makin and Tarawa 
Navy planes were to strike from 0545 to 
0615, attacking coast defense guns, heavy 
antiaircraft guns, observation towers, radio 
installations, aircraft, and personnel, as 
well as any barracks and buildings un- 
damaged by previous attacks. From about 
H Hour minus 5 minutes to H Hour plus 
1 5 minutes (that is from 5 minutes before 
to 15 minutes after the first troops hit the 
beach), planes would attack installations 
on the landing beaches. They were to 
strafe along the water's edge until the first 
wave of landing craft approached to with- 
in 100 yards of the beach, then shift fire 
inland to a depth of 100 yards. Immedi- 
ately thereafter, they were to bomb all 
secondary defense installations behind the 
beaches clear across each island as well as 
all beach installations between 500 and 
1,000 yards to both sides of the landing 

66 Ibid., pp. 5-6, 12-13. 

67 See above, pp. 00-00. 

68 TF 54 Opn Plan A2-43, 23 Oct 43, Annex A. 



40 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



areas. Following these scheduled missions, 
aircraft were to fly combat air patrol and 
antisubmarine patrol and carry out bomb- 
ing and strafing attacks in close support of 
the ground troops. 69 

For Makin, naval gunfire support would 
be provided by four old battleships, four 
cruisers, and six destroyers. 70 For Tarawa, 
three battleships, two heavy cruisers, three 
light cruisers, and nine destroyers would 
be assigned to this duty. 71 The general 
plan for the employment of these vessels 
at both objectives was as follows: During 
the early morning of D Day, commencing 
about 0615, the heavy ships would deliver 
prearranged neutralization and counter- 
battery fires at moderately long range. As 
mine sweepers gradually closed the 
beaches off Makin and swept the lagoon 
offBetio, support vessels would move to 
closer range. Battleships and heavy cruis- 
ers were permitted to move in as close as 
2,000 or 3,000 yards (that is, one to one 
and a half nautical miles) in order to 
knock out heavy turret guns ashore. 
Shortly before the landing, light cruisers 
and destroyers were instructed to move to 
still closer range for a last-minute satu- 
ration fire. This was to terminate at H 
minus 5 minutes so as to permit a final air 
strike on the beaches immediately before 
the first wave of troops hit. Under no cir- 
cumstances were ships and planes to bom- 
bard the same areas simultaneously. After 
the landings had been made ships were to 
stand by to fire on targets of opportunity 
on request of shore fire control parties at- 
tached to troop units and to deliver slow 
neutralization fire on areas 400 to 800 
yards or more from the nearest troops. 72 

It was believed by some naval planners 
of the operation that this tremendous 
volume of preliminary naval gunfire cou- 
pled with the proposed aerial bombard- 
ment would surely be ample to knock out 



most of the heavier Japanese installations 
and at the very least neutralize the beaches 
during the assault phase of the operation. 
Just before the 2d Marine Division sailed 
from Efate, one of the ranking naval offi- 
cers is reported to have stated of Betio: 
"We do not intend to neutralize it, we do 
not intend to destroy it. Gentlemen, we 
will obliterate it." 73 Such optimism was 
extravagant, as the course of the battle 
would show, but it was based on the 
knowledge that in no previous amphibious 
operation had such a tremendous weight 
of naval and air power been available to 
landing troops. That a mere two and a 
half hours of preliminary naval bombard- 
ment, no matter how concentrated, was 
still not enough to "obliterate" even tiny 
islands the size of Betio and Butaritari was 
still to be proved. 

The 27th Division's Plan: Butaritari 

For the landing on Butaritari, total 
troop strength of the 165th Regimental 
Combat Team with its attached units came 
to 6,470 men. This included, besides the 
infantry troops of the 165th, detachments 
from the 105th Infantry Regiment of the 
27th Division, part of the 193d Tank Bat- 
talion, the 152d Engineer Battalion, coast- 
al artillery and antiaircraft batteries of the 
98th and 93d Coastal Artillery Battalions, 
a platoon from the V Amphibious Corps 
Reconnaissance Company, plus sundry 



6B Ibid., Annex C, pp. 2-4, 8-9. 

70 TF 52 Amph Attack Order A3-43, 23 Oct 43, 
p. 1. 

71 TF 53 Opn Order A 104-43 (Revised), 4 Nov 43, 
pp. 1-2. 

72 TF 54 Opn Plan A2-43, 23 Oct 43, p. 5; Ibid., 
Annex C, pp. 2-3, 8-9. 

73 Earl J. Wilson, Jim F. Lucas, Samuel Shaffer, 
and G. Peter Zurlinden, Betio Beachhead (New York: 
The Putnam Company, 1945), p. 32.; Interv, Isely 
with Julian Smith, 28 Oct 48, p. 4. 



SELECTION OF TARGETS AND TACTICAL PLANNING 



41 



medical, signal, ordnance, quartermaster, 
and bomb disposal detachments. 

The plan for getting these troops ashore 
on Butaritari was elaborate in the extreme 
and unlike any adopted before or since in 
the Pacific war. It was devised by General 
Ralph Smith, Commanding General, 27th 
Division, and approved somewhat reluc- 
tantly by General Holland Smith, com- 
mander of the V Amphibious Corps. 74 The 
basic principle of the plan was to land two 
battalions on the west coast of Butaritari, 
followed quickly by tanks and artillery 
pieces. Two hours after the main landing, 
a third battalion was to be put ashore on 
the north (lagoon) side of the island rough- 
ly 4,000 yards east of the main landing 
beaches. This battalion would then split 
into two groups, one heading eastward, 
the other westward in the general direc- 
tion of the main landing force. The object 
was to envelop in an amphibious pincers 
movement the Western Tank Barrier that 
lay athwart the island between the main 
landing beaches on the west coast and the 
most heavily fortified area in the center — 
the so-called Citadel area. (Map I) 

The first wave to land on the west coast 
(at Red Beaches) was to consist of thirty- 
two LVT's embarked on two LST's, 
manned by separate detachments of the 
105th Infantry (called Detachments X 
and Y). These were to land at Red 
Beaches at H Hour and to clear a passage 
through any barbed wire or other under- 
water obstacles that might impede the 
succeeding landing craft. On hitting the 
shore, the troops were to move south and 
north respectively and cover the right and 
left flanks of the main landing beaches. 75 

This scheme of manning the first wave 
of LVT's with troops drawn from a regi- 
ment outside of the one that made up the 
main landing force was a product of neces- 
sity rather than choice. Because of the pre- 



vailing shortage of LVT's at the time of the 
operation, General Ralph Smith could not 
be certain that any of these vehicles would 
be available for the Makin landing. Not 
until about two weeks before sailing from 
Pearl Harbor did the tractors assigned to 
the 27th Division actually arrive. Hence, 
in working out a landing plan, General 
Smith had to take into account the pos- 
sibility that no amphibian tractors might 
be ready for the operation, and therefore 
assigned all of the assault troops of the 
165th Regimental Combat Team to 
LCVP's. Against the contingency that the 
desired tractors would show up at the last 
minute, he detached special units from the 
105th Regimental Combat Team of his 
division to make up the first wave and to 
perform whatever duties thereafter that 
might be considered desirable. 76 

Following this first wave of LVT's would 
come the assault troops of the 1st and 3d 
Battalion Landing Teams, 165th Regi- 
ment, boated in LCVP's. On the right, the 
3d Battalion Landing Team would land 
on Red Beach 2 and seize the right half of 
the division beachhead to about 1,600 
yards inland. It would then move right to 
clear the area around Ukiangong Village 
and Ukiangong Point. On the left, the 1st 
Battalion Landing Team would land on 
Red Beach, seize the division beachhead 
in its zone of action and move left to cap- 
ture the area from the north end of Red 
Beach to Flink Point. Upon capture of the 
division beachhead, it was to relieve the 
right battalion on the entire front line and 

74 General Ralph Smith's personal diary, which he 
kindly loaned to the authors, gives evidence of an 
original disagreement between himself and General 
Holland Smith on the landing plan. Holland Smith at 
first favored a head-on assault from the lagoon, in- 
stead of landing two battalions on the west coast and 
a third, later, on the lagoon shore. (Entry, 9 Oct 43). 

75 27th Inf Div FO 21, 23 Oct 43. 

76 Interv, Philip A. Crowl with Maj Gen Ralph C. 
Smith, USA (Ret), 30 Oct 50, OCMH. 



42 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



push reconnaissance as far east as "Jill" 
Lake. Upon being relieved, the 3d Bat- 
talion would assemble in dispersed forma- 
tion as division reserve in the area north of 
Ukiangong Village. 

Two hours later, at W Hour (1030), the 
second landings were to be made on Yel- 
low Beach 2 on the north shore between 
On Chong's Wharf and King's Wharf, 
both of which projected out into the 
lagoon. Here, too, the first wave would con- 
sist of sixteen LVT's mounted aboard an 
LST and would be manned by Detach- 
ment Z of the 105th Infantry Regiment. 
On arrival at the beach the troops were to 
dismount, half of them moving directly 
east to clear the enemy from King's Wharf 
and establish a beach block and defensive 
position on the left flank of the beach. The 
other half was to move directly west, clear- 
ing any Japanese found on On Chong's 
Wharf and protecting the right flank of 
the beach. Following this wave would 
come the assault troops of the 2d Battalion 
Landing Team, 165th, with Company A of 
the 193d Tank Battalion attached and 
boated in LCVP's and LCM's. Upon seiz- 
ing the beachhead, this battalion was to 
make its main effort to the westward to 
effect contact with the 1st Battalion Land- 
ing Team, which at that juncture was sup- 
posed to be moving eastward from the 
main division beachhead. 

Meanwhile, at H Hour the platoon of 
the V Amphibious Corps Reconnaissance 
Company with one reinforced infantry 
platoon from the 2d Battalion, 165th In- 
fantry, was to have landed on tiny Kotabu 
Island just north of Flink Point so as to se- 
cure the seaward approaches into the 
lagoon from possible enemy fire from that 
quarter. As soon after H Hour as was per- 
missible, the three artillery batteries of the 
165th Regiment were to be landed over 
Red Beach 2 and take position on Ukian- 



gong Point. Two of these batteries con- 
sisted of the standard 105-mm. howitzers 
organic to regiment. Because of limitations 
in shipping space, 75-mm. pack howitzers 
had to be substituted for the third bat- 
tery. 77 

The basic premise upon which this plan 
was made was that the first main obstacle 
to a quick capture of the island would be 
the West Tank Barrier. This consisted of 
a trench about six feet deep and over four- 
teen feet wide and extended by log fences. 
The whole system was laid out in a north- 
south direction across the island about 
3,400 yards east from Red Beaches. 78 It 
was believed that this barrier would seri- 
ously impede the progress of tank-infantry 
teams approaching from the west coast, 
and that the best method of eliminating 
the hazard was to envelop it. Since this 
would necessitate two battalions moving 
toward each other, each was instructed to 
use special colored-smoke grenades and to 
maintain close radio contact. By these safe- 
guards it was hoped that the danger of a 
fire fight between the American units 
would be minimized. 79 

What this plan failed to take into ac- 
count was the potentiality of naval gunfire. 
The tank barrier offered an ideal target for 
enfilade fire by destroyers lying off either 
the lagoon or the ocean side of the island. 
However, as of the autumn of 1943, the 
efficacy of naval gunfire against shore tar- 
gets had not yet been proved to the satis- 
faction of 27th Division planners. General 
Ralph Smith and his staff were still skep- 
tical of this particular type of fire, 80 hence 
they felt compelled to rely almost entirely 
on their tank-infantry teams to overcome 



77 Ltr, cited n. 34. 

78 V Phib Corps G-2 Situation Map, Butaritari 
Island. 

79 Ltr cited n. 34. 

80 Interv cited n. 76. 



SELECTION OF TARGETS AND TACTICAL PLANNING 



43 



the western tank barrier and establish a 
foothold on Butaritari. 

Another defect in the plan was that it 
relied too heavily on the assumption that 
communications between separate units 
would be adequate. To avoid the danger of 
a fire fight between the two infantry forces 
as they approached each other, it was es- 
sential that they be in perfect communica- 
tion with each other. Also, if artillery was 
to be used at all in the gap between the 
two forces, it would be imperative that 
close radio or telephone contact be main- 
tained between the artillery battalion and 
the various infantry commanders. As it 
turned out, no such contact was estab- 
lished during the first day's fighting on 
Makin. 

2d Marine Division's Plan: Betio 

By contrast, the plan for landing the 2d 
Marine Division on Betio was a model of 
simplicity. General Julian Smith had 
under his control only two reinforced regi- 
ments of his division, the 2d and 8th Regi- 
mental Combat Teams. The 6th Regi- 
mental Combat Team was to be held in 
corps reserve to be landed at Tarawa, 
Makin, or Apamama as the situation dic- 
tated. General Smith's plan called for the 
landing of three battalion landing teams 
abreast on Red Beaches 1,2, an d 3 on the 
north (lagoon) shore of Betio. (Map II ) 



The first three assault waves were to be 
made up of amphibian tractors, the fourth 
wave would be tanks boated in LCM's, the 
fifth would be LCVP's, each carrying 
about thirty-six troops. 81 

The first troops to land would be, from 
east to west (left to right) the 2d Battalion, 
8th Marines; 2d Battalion, 2d Marines; 
and 3d Battalion, 2d Marines. The 1st 
Battalion, 2d Marines, was to be held in 
regimental reserve. In division reserve, to 



be committed when and where the situa- 
tion warranted, would be the 1st and 3d 
Battalions of the 8th Marines. 

As soon as the beachhead was secured, 
the assault troops were to move directly 
across the island to the south, seizing the 
airfield and mopping up enemy positions 
along the ocean beaches. When this task 
had been completed, the two battalions 
on the east were to pivot and move to the 
left along the axis of the island to clean it 
off to its eastern tip. The artillery regiment 
(10th Marines) was to land on order on 
the main beaches and prepare to mass the 
bulk of its fires from Central Pier (which 
jutted out into the lagoon almost on the 
boundary between Red Beaches 2 and 3) 
to the eastern end of Betio. 

With the withdrawal of the 6th Marines 
from division control, General Julian 
Smith could count on having only about a 
two-to-one superiority over the Japanese, 
who were reckoned to number somewhere 
between 2,500 and 3,100. 82 This was con- 
siderably under the classic three-to-one 
superiority which, according to standard 
amphibious doctrine, is the minimum 
ratio desirable. If the assault was to pro- 
ceed with the speed and ease hoped for, 
this deficiency in troop strength would 
have to be made up for by the preliminary 
naval and aerial bombardment and by the 
sustained momentum of the first five waves 
of assault troops and tanks. If any of these 
failed to materialize — that is, if aerial and 
naval bombardment proved less destruc- 
tive than expected or if the ship-to-shore 
movement broke down — then the burden 
imposed on the invading troops would be 
unduly heavy. Events at Tarawa were soon 
to prove this to be the case. 



8, 2d Marine Div Opn Order 14, 25 Oct 43, with 
annexes. 

82 Stockman, Tarawa, p. 4. 



CHAPTER III 



Preparing ft 

Training 

The Marine V Amphibious Corps, 
under General Holland Smith, was re- 
sponsible for supervision of the ship-to- 
shore amphibious training of all units 
scheduled to take part in the invasion of 
the Gilbert Islands. General Richardson, 
commanding general of United States 
Army Forces in the Central Pacific Area 
(USAFICPA), was in charge of the rest of 
the training of Army units for this opera- 
tion in addition to discharging the logis- 
tical and administrative duties of his 
command. 

Before its specific assignment to the 
Gilberts operation, the 27th Infantry Di- 
vision had been conducting preliminary 
amphibious training for a period of about 
eight months. 1 The division had been a 
National Guard unit from New York State 
and was called into Federal service in 
October 1940. Beginning in March 1942 it 
was transferred to Hawaii and for the next 
year and a half served as base defense 
force, first in the outer islands and later on 
Oahu after the 25th Infantry Division was 
sent to Guadalcanal in November 1942. 
While in Hawaii the division was triangu- 
larized, losing its fourth regiment, the 
108th Infantry, to the 40th Division. This 
left it with the 165th, the 105th, and the 
106th Infantry Regiments. 2 

Since November of 1942 the division's 



r the Attack 



commanding general had been General 
Ralph Smith. His previous wartime duty 
had been with Military Intelligence Divi- 
sion of the War Department General Staff 
(G-2) and with the 76th Infantry Division 
at Fort George G. Meade. 3 

In spite of the fact that its original duties 
in the Hawaiian area were largely defen- 
sive in character, the division early com- 
menced to make preparations against the 
day when it might be called upon to par- 
ticipate in amphibious operations. In De- 
cember 1942 two of its officers were de- 
tailed to attend an amphibious school con- 
ducted by the U.S. Marine Corps in San 
Diego. On their return an amphibious 
school was opened in Hawaii. This school, 
conducted from 7 April to 12 May 1943, 
was attended by regimental and battalion 
commanders and their executive officers, 
and staff intelligence, operations, and 
logistics officers, and others. 

Between May and August each battal- 
ion landing team was assembled at Scho- 
field Barracks on Oahu and given instruc- 
tions in the use of ropes, cargo net climbing 
and descending, boat team drill, debark- 
ing and deployment from mock-up boats, 
passage through wire entanglements and 
other obstacles, and various other tech- 

1 USAFICPA Participation Rpt Galvanic, p. 29. 

2 Love, 27th Infantry Division, pp. 1-2. 

3 General Officers Service Biographies, Public In- 
formation Division, Department of the Army. 



PREPARING FOR THE ATTACK 



45 



niques peculiar to amphibious warfare. 
Battalion staffs prepared boat assignment 
tables, boat diagrams, shore party organi- 
zation, landing diagrams, and debarkation 
and approach schedules. Next, each bat- 
talion landing team received one week's 
instruction at the Waianae Amphibious 
Training Center where a pier was used to 
simulate a Navy transport, and where a 
specially constructed barge was anchored 
offshore to give the troops experience in 
embarking and debarking from a listing 
vessel. 4 

In August, when General Richardson 
assumed command of United States Army 
Forces in the Central Pacific Area, steps 
were taken forthwith to expand the am- 
phibious training program in the Hawaiian 
area with special attention given to the 
units of the 27th Division scheduled to 
participate in the forthcoming Gilberts 
operation. Construction of three new train- 
ing centers had already commenced and 
before the end of August these were com- 
pleted and ready for use. They were lo- 
cated at Waimanalo on the southeastern 
shore of Oahu, at Kahuku Point on the 
northernmost tip of Oahu, and in the Pali 
region in the central part of the island. All 
were equipped with mock-up ships' plat- 
forms and other facilities for specialized 
amphibious training. It was planned that 
each combat team of the 27th Division 
would be rotated through each of these 
camps as well as through the Schofield 
training area. Each team was to spend 
three weeks at each center. 5 

In addition to this general "preamphibi- 
ous" training, various specialist courses 
were set up. Shore fire control parties were 
trained by division artillery for the pur- 
pose of directing naval gunfire after hitting 
the beach. The division's G-4 (supply) 
officer, Lt. Col. Charles B. Ferris, set up a 



school for transport quartermasters, com- 
mencing on 17 September. Officers and 
noncommissioned officers were made fa- 
miliar with the characteristics of Navy 
transports by visiting Pearl Harbor, meas- 
uring the ships, and observing the loading 
of ships. Stowage plans used in the Attu 
operation were studied and tentative stow- 
age plans for the forthcoming operation 
were devised. 6 

One of the main sources of amphibious 
training doctrine available at this time was 
the War Department Field Manual 31-5, 
entitled Landing Operations on Hostile 
Shores (1941). This was based in large 
part on a previous Navy Department pub- 
lication, Fleet Training Publication 167 
(1938), which in turn originated in earlier 
studies in amphibious warfare produced 
by the Marine Corps in 1934 and 1935. 7 
In addition, at the suggestion of General 
Ralph Smith, General Richardson's head- 
quarters obtained copies of a detailed set 
of notes prepared by the 9th Infantry Di- 
vision covering its training at Navy am- 
phibious training centers on the east coast 
of the United States. These items and 
other literature obtained from the Marine 
training base at Camp Elliott, San Diego, 
made up the bulk of the theoretical doc- 
trine upon which the training in Hawaii 
was based. 8 

Only one serious shortcoming in the 
training program was subsequently noted. 
No systematic training of Army tanks in 
conjunction with small infantry units was 
attempted. In view of the importance of a 
smoothly functioning tank-infantry team 

4 USAFICPA Participation Rpt Galvanic, pp. 
129-30. 

5 USAFMIDPAC Hist, Vol. 9, pp. 1847-48. 

6 USAFICPA Participation Rpt Galvanic, p. 131. 

7 USAFMIDPAC Hist, Vol. 9, pp. 1943-44; Isely 
and Crowl, U.S. Marines and Amphibious War, Ch. II. 

8 USAFMIDPAC Hist, Vol. 9, pp. 1944-45. 



PREPARING FOR THE ATTACK 



47 



in the forthcoming Makin operation, the 
omission was serious. 9 

Following this period of shore-based 
training, the 165th Regimental Combat 
Team conducted joint amphibious training 
on beaches in the Hawaiian area with 
ships of Transport Division 20. Adverse 
weather conditions and poor beaches de- 
tracted somewhat from the success of this 
program. Also, no fire support or control 
vessels were available, thus adding unde- 
sirable artificialities to the maneuvers. 10 

Finally, after all transports were loaded, 
last-minute rehearsals were held between 
31 October and 3 November 1943. Ad- 
miral Turner's Task Force 52, with the 
troops and the equipment of the Northern 
Attack Force aboard, proceeded from 
Pearl Harbor to the vicinity of Maalaea 
Bay, Maui, on the night of the 31st. Next 
morning rehearsals were held off the coast 
of Maui, with simulated naval gunfire and 
air support. All troops were landed but no 
supplies and equipment were sent ashore 
for fear of damage to landing craft and 
equipment, which could not be repaired 
before final embarkation for Makin. This 
exercise was repeated at daylight on 2 
November. Finally, at dawn of 3 Novem- 
ber a full-scale dress rehearsal was held off 
the coast of Kahoolawe Island employing 
actual gunfire and air support. Assault 
troops were embarked and proceeded to 
the line of departure, but did not land 
because Kahoolawe's beaches were rocky 
and therefore dangerous to the safety of 
landing craft. After the completion of this 
final exercise, the task force returned to 
Pearl Harbor for final loading, repairs, and 
briefing before sailing for Makin. 11 

Meanwhile at Wellington, New Zea- 
land, the 2d Marine Division was carrying 
on its own training program. One of its 
regiments, the 2d Marines, had already 



made one amphibious landing at Guadal- 
canal and the other two, the 6th and 8th 
Marines, had participated in the subse- 
quent land fighting on that island. In the 
words of General Holland Smith, "They 
were veterans of a campaign and needed 
little training other than amphibious train- 
ing." 12 This the division got during the 
month of October as Navy transports were 
made available. 

Final rehearsals of the entire Southern 
Attack Force, less its escort carriers, were 
held at Efate in the New Hebrides between 
7 and 12 November. Two separate landing 
exercises were conducted at Mele Bay and 
fire support ships held bombardment prac- 
tice on Erradaka Island. Communications 
equipment was tested and communica- 
tions exercises were held at the same time. 13 
Although this training was valuable, espe- 
cially for the personnel who had recently 
joined the division to replace losses at 
Guadalcanal, the rehearsals were still not 
as satisfactory as desired, principally be- 
cause the forces involved had too short a 
time to prepare and co-ordinate their 
plans. 14 

Logistics 

The chief logistical problem in prepar- 
ing for the Gilberts operation was the 
shortage of amphibian tractors in the Pa- 
cific Ocean Areas. This vehicle was one of 
the few truly amphibian pieces of equip- 
ment to be put to extensive use throughout 

9 Ltr, Hq 27th Inf Div to TAG, 14 Dec 43, sub: Par-, 
ticipation of TF 52.6, 27th Div, in Galvanic (Makin) 
Opn, p. 10, AG 327-0.3(429) 16-25 Nov 43, DRB 
AGO. 

10 Fifth Amph Force Rpt, Capture of Gilbert 
Islands, Incl A, pp. 2-3. 

11 Ibid., pp. 3-4. 

12 V Phib Corps Galvanic Rpt, p. 5. 

13 Stockman, Tarawa, p. 9. 

14 V Phib Corps Galvanic Rpt, p. 5. 



48 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



the war in the Pacific. It was capable of 
about 4.5 knots in the water, and its tracks 
enabled it to traverse coral reefs and other 
obstacles not negotiable by standard land- 
ing craft. About twenty-six feet in length, 
it could carry (at this date) upward of 
twenty troops. 

The LVT (sometimes called the "Alli- 
gator") had been first designed by one 
Donald Roebling, a retired manufacturer, 
for rescue work in the Everglades of Flor- 
ida. Shortly thereafter the vehicle was 
brought to the attention of Marine officers 
stationed at Quantico, Virginia, who set 
about adapting it to military purposes. By 
1940, under Marine Corps pressure, the 
Navy Department set aside funds for fur- 
ther development and by the outbreak of 
the war the amphibian tractor's utility 
both as a troop carrier and as a cargo car- 
rier for amphibious landings had been 
satisfactorily demonstrated. 15 At Guadal- 
canal a few were used logistically to carry 
supplies and ammunition directly from 
shipboard to inland dumps, to move guns, 
and to evacuate the wounded. 16 

Early during the planning stage for the 
Gilberts, it was realized that certainly at 
Tarawa and possibly at Makin standard 
landing craft could not pass through the 
protective wire and log barricades that 
were known to have been erected to sea- 
ward on the reefs and beaches. Also, there 
was some doubt as to whether there would 
be enough water over the reef at Tarawa 
to permit Higgins boats to get through. 
Experiments in breaking up such barri- 
cades as were expected in the Gilberts 
were made with these amphibian tractors 
and turned out favorably. 17 

Steps were then taken to procure enough 
amphibian tractors to carry the assault 
troops ashore at both Tarawa and Makin. 
At Efate the 2d Marine Division had on 



hand about one hundred tractors, of which 
seventy-five were considered to be opera- 
tional. These were old models (LVT(l)'s), 
unarmored and susceptible to mechanical 
failure. The division requested the assign- 
ment of a hundred new models (LVT(2)'s) 
from San Diego. The request was granted 
but sufficient transport to carry the vehi- 
cles into the combat area could not be pro- 
vided. In the end, naval authorities re- 
leased three LST's to do the job and fifty 
additional amphibian tractors reached the 
2d Marine Amphibian Tractor Battalion 
at Samoa just before it set sail for Tarawa. 
Thus, for the attack on Betio, the marines 
had a total of 125 amphibian tractors 
which, excluding those earmarked for 
purely logistical duties, was sufficient to 
make up the first three waves of the 
assault. 18 

The 27th Division received forty-eight 
LVT's for use at Makin. These were not 
delivered at Oahu until 29 October, only 
thirteen days before sailing for the island. 
Before the 29th only one tractor had been 
available for training. Nevertheless, a pro- 
visional company from Headquarters, 
193d Tank Battalion, had been organized 
on 21 October to operate these vehicles 
and was felt to be trained sufficiently to 
warrant use in the operation. 19 

Another amphibious development in- 
troduced into the Central Pacific Area 
during the Gilberts operation was the ex- 
tensive employment of pallets for unload- 
ing supplies. Pallets had been employed 

15 Secretary of the Navy, Continuing Board for the 
Development of Landing Vehicle, Tracked, History 
of Landing Vehicle, Tracked (Washington, 1 Dec 45). 

16 Miller, Guadalcanal, p. 75. 

17 Fifth Amph Force Rpt, Capture of Gilbert 
Islands, p. 10. 

18 Stockman, Tarawa, pp. 4-5. 

19 USAFICPA Participation Rpt Galvanic, pp. 
65-66, 97-98; 193d Tk Bn Rpt of Makin Opn, Sec. 
XIII, Rpt of Provisional Amph LVT Co, p. 34. 



PREPARING FOR THE ATTACK 



49 



by the 7th Infantry Division in the Aleu- 
tians and had been reported upon favor- 
ably by that division after its arrival in the 
Hawaiian Islands. Pallets are sledlike 
structures to which supplies are strapped. 
Those used in the Aleutians had measured 
about four by six feet and were smooth- 
bottomed, like toboggans. Experiments 
were conducted on Oahu both with this 
type and with one that had runners at- 
tached. The toboggan type was found to 
be more satisfactory on rough coral, while 
the sled type was discovered to be better 
on sand and finger coral. Fifteen hundred 
pallets of the toboggan type and 350 of the 
sled type were built for the Makin opera- 
tion. 20 In the end, the assault force pallet- 
ized virtually all of its supplies with the 
exception of 55-gallon drums. 21 These pal- 
lets, heavily loaded with supplies, could be 
unloaded from landing craft by tractor 
and moved to inland dumps so rapidly 
that under ideal conditions a lighter could 
be unloaded in an estimated one twelfth of 
the time taken by the standard manhan- 
dling method. 22 

In the Gilberts operation, this technique 
of palletization was used to an appreciable 
degree only at Makin. The 2d Marine Di- 
vision constructed few pallets. However, 
the one battalion commander at Tarawa 
who reported on the subject considered 
that the employment of pallets there would 
have been feasible, and the transport quar- 
termaster of Holland Smith's V Amphibi- 
ous Corps later commented favorably on 
the experiment conducted by Army troops 
at Makin. 23 

Troops, supplies, and equipment of the 
Northern Attack Force were loaded in the 
Hawaiian area aboard four APA's and one 
AKA. 24 Three LST's carried between them 
the forty-eight amphibian tractors assigned 
to the assault force and a company of me- 



dium tanks was carried aboard the LSD 
Belle Grove. These four amphibious vessels 
also carried between them 791 troops. All 
of the transports were combat loaded — this 
is to say, each tactical unit was embarked 
aboard a single ship with its supplies and 
equipment stowed in inverse order to their 
probable tactical employment during the 
landing. High-priority material was nor- 
mally stowed near the top and center of 
ships' holds; low-priority near the bottom 
and on the outside. Thus, the 1st Battalion 
Landing Team of the 165th Regimental 
Combat Team, consisting of 1,044 officers 
and men with their essential supplies and 
equipment, was loaded aboard the Neville; 
2d Battalion Landing Team, numbering 
1,219, aboard Leonard Wood. In addition, 
each of these vessels carried shore parties 
from the 3d Battalion, 105th Infantry, and 
sundry other personnel including air liai- 
son parties, shore fire control parties, ob- 
servers, and newspaper correspondents. 
The attack cargo ship Alcyone carried, in 
addition to its load of supplies and equip- 
ment, miscellaneous units of the 165th 
Regimental Combat Team such as the 
Service Company, the Cannon Company, 
27th Division Quartermaster Company 
Detachment, 27th Division Signal Com- 
pany Detachment — in all 288. 25 



20 USAFICPA Participation Rpt Galvanic, p. 46. 

21 Ibid., p. 27. 

22 Interv, Edmund G. Love with Col Charles B. 
Ferris, Sep 47. 

23 V Phib Corps Galvanic Rpt, Incl F, Rpt by 
Special Staff Officers, Sec. VIII, Rpt by Transport 
Quartermaster, p. 4. 

24 The troopships were Leonard Wood, Calvert, Neville 
and Pierce; the cargo ship (which also carried some 
troops) was Alcyone. 

25 Ltr, Hq 27th Inf Div to CG Port of Embarka- 
tion, Fort Mason, California, 7 Dec 43, Incl 2, sub: 
Capacities of Listed Ships Cargo and Actual Combat 
Load Details, AG 327-Inf (1 65)-4. 8(25054), DRB 
AGO. 



PREPARING FOR THE ATTACK 



51 



Besides their troops, each of the three 
attack transports was loaded with the fol- 
lowing supplies and equipment: all Table 
of Basic Allowance equipment and indi- 
vidual and organizational property for the 
units aboard except for certain items, such 
as chemical warfare equipment, that were 
ordered left behind; 10 days' rations plus 
2 days' K rations carried by each individ- 
ual on board; one 5-gallon container of 
water per man on board; 7 days' motor 
fuel for bulldozers and other vehicles 
aboard, 5 units of fire for all weapons, 10 
days' medical supply for all units, and 7 
days' supply of ordnance cleaning and pre- 
serving materials, and spare gun parts. 
Average poundage per soldier on these 
three ships came to 1,322. 

The Alcyone, the only attack cargo ship 
assigned to the Northern Attack Force, 
carried in addition to the troops men- 
tioned, the following supplies and equip- 
ment: 24 days' B rations for the entire 
force; approximately 3,000 5-gallon cans 
of water; sufficient gasoline for 8 days' op- 
eration for all motor vehicles; approxi- 
mately 18,750 gallons of white gasoline; 
over 70,000 gallons of diesel oil; 28,200 
gallons of high-octane gasoline for the am- 
phibian tractors; 7,684 gallons of motor 
oil; 3,655 pounds of grease; 5 units of fire 
for all weapons on board; 5 units of fire for 
one battery of 105-mm. howitzers; 4 units 
of fire for the weapons of the medium tanks 
carried aboard the Belle Grove; 4 units of 
fire for the two .30-caliber and one .50- 
caliber machine guns on each of the am- 
phibian tractors carried aboard the 3 
LST's; slightly more than 30 days of medi- 
cal supplies; 30 days of maintenance for all 
items in ordnance; about 1.5 tons of chem- 
ical warfare supplies; approximately 30 
days' quartermaster supplies for the entire 
force; 30 days' signal supplies; and 30 



days' engineer maintenance for an engi- 
neer combat battalion and 20 days' main- 
tenance requirements for an infantry divi- 
sion less the combat battalion. 26 

The 2d Marine Division, loading in New 
Zealand, experienced somewhat more dif- 
ficulty than did the 165th Regimental 
Combat Team. This was because in many 
cases ships assigned to the division failed 
to arrive in Wellington until just before the 
scheduled time for loading. Before their 
actual arrival, division headquarters had 
little information about ships' characteris- 
tics. Not knowing in many cases the names 
of the ships or even the type of ships to be 
assigned, Marine planners had no reliable 
information on such vital matters as the 
size of ships' holds and hatches, troop 
spaces, and so forth. Hence, loading plans 
could be only tentative and had to be re- 
vised at the last minute as individual ves- 
sels put in their appearance at Welling- 
ton. 27 

Nevertheless, the ships were combat 
loaded in a manner at least satisfactory 
enough to elicit no adverse comment from 
the division commander. Thirteen APA's, 
three AKA's and one LSD completed load- 
ing and left Wellington on 1 November 
194 3. 28 In addition, three LST's carrying 
amphibian tractors met the division at 
Samoa. 



26 Ibid., Incl 1, Logistics of Makin Island Opn, 27th 
Div Task Force; S. L. A. Marshall, Makin Notes (2d 
draft), p. 182, OCMH. 

27 V Phib Corps Galvanic Rpt, Incl F, Rpt of 
Special Staff Officers, Sec. VIII, Rpt of Transport 
QM, p. 1; Ibid., Incl G, Rpt by Special Observers, Sec. 
II, Rpt by Capt Richard F. Whitehead, USN, p. 1. 

28 The following ships were used to lift the 2d 
Marine Division: ^eilin, Hey wood, Middleton, Biddle, 
Lee, Monrovia, Sheridan, La Salle, Doyen (all APA's); 
Thuban, Bellatrix (AKA's); and Ashland (LSD). 2d 
Marine Div Special Action Rpt, 6 Jan 44, Incl A, 
Narrative Account of Gilbert Islands Opn, p. 1. 



52 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



Preliminary Air and Naval Action 

Well before the crystallization of plans 
for the invasion of the Gilberts, bombers of 
the Seventh Air Force had commenced to 
harass those islands as well as nearby 
Nauru. In January and February recon- 
naissance missions were sent over the Gil- 
berts and on 20 April a flight of twenty- 
two B-24's took off from Funafuti for a 
thousand-mile run to Nauru. There, in 
spite of heavy interception, they hit the 
runway recently constructed by the Japa- 
nese as well as the local phosphate plant. 
Two days later twelve B-24's struck Tara- 
wa with moderate success. 29 

At this time Funafuti and Canton were 
the only two Allied bases within range of 
the Gilberts, and these were so far away as 
to make regular bombing runs difficult 
and hazardous. Hence, in order to 
strengthen American control of air ap- 
proaches to these islands, the Joint Chiefs 
in July authorized the seizure of other 
islands for the construction of new airfields 
from which to conduct neutralization and 
reconnaissance. 30 Accordingly, early in 
August, Admiral Nimitz ordered three 
Marine defense battalions to "occupy, 
organize, and defend the atolls of Nukufe- 
tau and Nanomea at the earliest practic- 
able date . . . and to construct airfields 
thereon." 31 These two islands, both in the 
Ellice group, were respectively about 600 
miles south and 350 miles east of Tarawa. 
An advance survey party landed at Nano- 
mea Atoll on 18 August to determine 
whether it was occupied by the enemy and, 
after reconnoitering, to select a site for an 
airfield. No Japanese were discovered on 
the atoll, and ten days later the advance 
party was followed ashore by the forward 
echelon of the 7th Marine Defense Battal- 
ion and detachments from two naval con- 



struction battalions. Meanwhile, on 22 
August, an advance party of the 2d Ma- 
rine Airdrome Battalion landed at Nuku- 
fetau, and was followed five days later by 
the remainder of the battalion and ele- 
ments of a naval construction battalion. 
The Marine contingent at Funafuti was 
strengthened and naval construction 
troops sent there. All units began at once 
the construction of new airfields and the 
improvement and enlargement of existing 
facilities. 

The transformation of these atolls into 
air bases progressed rapidly. By 7 Septem- 
ber a 5,000-foot airstrip was ready for use 
at Nanomea, and by the end of the month 
a full squadron of planes was operating 
from there. Work at Nukufetau was some- 
what slower, but the strip was ready for 
use by 9 October. 32 

On 1 1 August a small task force was sent 
by General Richardson to develop Baker 
Island, a U.S. possession about 480 miles 
due east of the Gilberts. This expedition 
was composed of the 804th Aviation Engi- 
neer Battalion, a provisional antiaircraft 
artillery battalion, a provisional air service 
support squadron, a fighter squadron, and 
miscellaneous service elements. The force 
carried equipment and supplies sufficient 
to construct, operate, and maintain a base 
for ninety days. It arrived at Baker on 1 
September. A week later a strip capable of 
supporting fighter planes was already in 
use. 33 

Thus, on the eve of the invasion of the 
Gilberts, the Seventh Air Force had five 



29 Craven and Cate, AAF IV, pp. 286-88. 
34 Rad, JCS to CINCPAC, CM-IN 14465, 20 Jul 
43. 

31 CINCPAC-CINGPOA Opns in POA, Aug 43, 
par. 56. 

32 CINCPAC-GINCPOA Opns in POA, Sep 43, 
pp. 3-4. 

33 USAFICPA Participation Rpt Galvanic, p. 145. 



PREPARING FOR THE ATTACK 



53 



bases within bombing range of those 
islands. Funafuti, Nukufetau, and Nano- 
mea each had two bomber squadrons; on 
Canton were stationed one bomber squad- 
ron, one fighter-bomber squadron, and one 
fighter squadron; Baker had one fighter 
squadron. 34 Advance headquarters of the 
Seventh Air Force was opened at Funafuti 
on 6 November, and at approximately the 
same time Admiral Hoover's flagship Cur- 
tis anchored in the lagoon. 35 

The first air attack in the Gilberts oper- 
ation occurred on 13 November when 
eighteen B-24's took off from Funafuti to 
bomb Tarawa. They dropped about fifteen 
tons of bombs on the target, starting a large 
fire but causing no other observable dam- 
age. Although no enemy interception was 
met, antiaircraft fire was unusually heavy. 
On the next day nine B-24's bombed 
Tarawa again, causing some damage to the 
airstrip. The same day, the first strike was 
launched against Mille Atoll, the nearest 
of the Marshalls. Of the twenty planes that 
started for Mille, only nine reached the 
target. They dropped four tons of bombs 
on the airfield. Although antiaircraft fire 
from both Tarawa and Mille was heavy, 
there was still no interception by enemy 
planes. On 15 November the strikes were 
extended to include Jaluit in the Mar- 
shalls. Seventeen bombers hit that atoll, 
causing damage to the seaplane base and 
sinking ships in the lagoon. Another strike 
by eight B-24's was conducted against 
Mille and Makin the same day. The air- 
field at Mille was again damaged and 
again there was no air opposition. 

On 16 November the air offensive 
moved farther west, to Kwajalein Atoll. Of 
twenty planes assigned the mission that 
day, only one reached the primary target. 
The others turned back and dropped their 
bombs on Jaluit, in the Marshalls, and 



Tarawa and Little Makin, in the Gilberts. 
The same day six B-24's set out for Malo- 
elap, but were unable to drop their bombs 
because of poor weather. For the first time, 
enemy fighters arose to intercept the at- 
tack. On 17 November, the day immedi- 
ately preceding the scheduled arrival of 
the American carrier force in the target 
area, twenty bombers hit Tarawa, Mille, 
and Maloelap. Considerable damage was 
reported to have been done to the airfields 
at Tarawa and Mille. At Maloelap the 
bombers were intercepted by Japanese 
fighters and in the ensuing action one B-24 
was badly damaged and crashed at Baker 
Island on its return flight. 

In all, the heavy bombers of the Seventh 
Air Force had flown 141 bombing sorties 
against the Gilberts and Marshalls be- 
tween 13 and 1 7 November. They dropped 
about 173 tons of bombs and destroyed at 
least five enemy aircraft. Of course, it is 
impossible to calculate the extent of the 
damage done to the airfields and defense 
installations in the Gilberts, since the same 
area was later covered by carrier aircraft 
and then by naval guns just before the 
invasion. 36 

While the bases for the air offensive 
against the Gilberts were being built and 
reinforced, other preliminary moves 
against the targets were taking place. A 
fast carrier task force (Task Force 50) 
under command of Admiral Pownall was 
organized early in September to strike the 
Gilberts in order to "decrease enemy pres- 
sure on our holdings in the Ellice Islands," 
which the Japanese had bombed from 
Tarawa and Makin. This force was to de- 

34 Craven and Cate, A A F IV, p. 298. 

35 Operational Hist of Seventh Air Force, 7 Dec 41- 
6 Nov 43, p. 66, MS filed in Air University Historical 
Liaison Office, Washington, D. C. 

36 Ibid., pp. 88-90; Craven and Cate, AAFIV, pp. 
299-302. 



54 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



stroy aircraft and installations at Tarawa, 
Makin, and Apamama and to conduct 
such reconnaissance as was possible. 37 

The naval force that approached the 
Gilberts during the night of 17-18 Septem- 
ber consisted of three carriers, three 
cruisers, and eleven destroyers. It was to be 
supported by twenty-four B-24's flying 
from Canton and Funafuti and fourteen 
flying from Guadalcanal. The planes of the 
first group were to attack Tarawa just be- 
fore dawn on 18 September; those from 
Guadalcanal were to hit Nauru at the same 
time. Twenty-eight photoreconnaissance 
planes from Canton and Funafuti were to 
join the task force in the area of Tarawa 
and combine bombing runs on that island 
with their photographic mission. 

Arriving near Tarawa during the early 
morning hours of 18 September, the car- 
riers launched their first flight at approxi- 
mately 0330, hoping to take advantage of 
moonlight for their initial runs. There was 
not enough light, however, and the planes 
had to hover over the island until day- 
break. Between then and 1822 of the same 
day six separate attacks were made against 
Tarawa, during which eighty tons of 
bombs were dropped and all visible instal- 
lations strafed. One attack was launched 
against Makin at daylight and another 
against Apamama later in the morning. 

The airfield at Nauru was reported to be 
neutralized. At Tarawa considerable quan- 
tities of fuel and ammunition were de- 
stroyed, several buildings were wrecked, 
and a small freighter was sunk. At Makin 
three large flying boats were set on fire, 
and some damage was done to shore in- 
stallations. The most important single 
achievement of the strike was the photo- 
graphic coverage of Tarawa and Makin by 
both carrier- and land-based aircraft. At 
Tarawa opposition from antiaircraft artil- 



lery was intense, but at Makin it was ex- 
tremely weak. No fighter interception was 
encountered at either target, but twojapa- 
nese medium bombers were shot down 
northwest of Makin. 

The carrier force retired to the south 
during the night. Next day the attack was 
continued by twenty B-24's from Canton 
and Funafuti. The bombers were inter- 
cepted by enemy fighters over Tarawa, 
where the airfield had been repaired dur- 
ing the night. Of the eighteen Japanese 
fighters that rose to meet the attackers, six 
were definitely destroyed and four more 
listed as probably destroyed. During these 
two days of operations American losses 
were five planes, one of them a bomber 
that crash-landed at Nanomea on its 
return from the second flight. 

The raid on the Gilberts was followed 
eighteen days later by a naval carrier strike 
against Wake. Led by Rear Adm. Alfred 
E. Montgomery, USN, Task Force 14, the 
largest carrier striking force yet assembled 
in the Pacific, hit Wake on 5 and 6 Octo- 
ber. Sixty-seven Japanese planes were re- 
ported destroyed in the air and on the 
ground, and shore installations were 
heavily damaged. 38 

Then, commencing on 13 November, 
the land-based bombers of Admiral 
Hoover's Task Force 57 made nightly at- 
tacks on Tarawa and Makin as well as on 
Nauru and islands in the central Mar- 
snails. A total of sixty-six planes partici- 
pated in these raids before November 20. 39 

Finally, during the two days before the 
landings, both Navy and Army planes de- 
livered last-minute softening-up blows. The 

37 CINCPAC-CINCPOA Opns in POA, Sep 43, 
pp. 7-10. 

38 CINCPAC-CINCPOA Opns in POA, Oct 43, 
pp. 5-8. 

39 CINCPAC-CINCPOA Opns in POA, Nov 43, 
Annex E, p. 20. 



PREPARING FOR THE ATTACK 



55 




NAURU ISLAND under attack by 1 

first strike was against Nauru. At 0300 on 
18 November one group of Admiral Pow- 
nall's task force launched eighteen fighter 
planes for a dawn strike against that 
island. They were followed, three hours 
later, by twenty more fighters and then, at 
intervals of two to three hours, by dive 
bombers, torpedo bombers, and more 
fighters. All day long these planes bombed 
and strafed Nauru. By the day's end about 
ninety tons of bombs had been dropped. 
Installations on the island were reported 
to have been severely damaged. One Japa- 
nese ship was left burning, and three or 
four medium bombers were destroyed on 
the ground. Four or five enemy fighters 
sought to intercept the attack, but all were 
shot down. 40 

The carrier attack on Nauru was fol- 



iberator bombers of the Seventh Air Force. 

lowed next day with strikes by land-based 
planes. Seventh Air Force bombers, ac- 
companied by Navy photoreconnaissance 
aircraft, bombed both airfields and ship- 
ping, causing considerable damage and 
removing Nauru as a threat to operations 
in the Gilberts. 41 

At the same time the Gilberts themselves 
were brought under heavy aerial attack. 
On 19 November, nineteen B-24's from 
Nukufetau and Funafuti dropped about 
ten tons of bombs on Tarawa, causing fires 
throughout the area and damaging the 
airfields. Twelve more planes, from Nano- 
mea, dropped twenty-three tons on 



40 Ibid., p. 26. 

41 Operational Hist of Seventh Air Force, 6 Nov 43- 
3 1 Jul 44, pp. 91-93, MS filed in Air University His- 
torical Liaison Office, Washington, D. G. 



56 SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



Table 1 — Ammunition Expended by Japanese on Tarawa and Makin 13-19 Novem- 
ber 1943 





Type of 


Rounds 


Rounds 




Ammunition 


Expended 


Remaining 




127-mm. AA 


» 1,437 


3,290 




75 -mm. AA 


» 1,312 


1, 345 




13-mm. MG 


a 51, 160 


14, 903 




8-inch 


46 


b 




14-cm. 


104 


b 




13-mm. MG 


"9, 100 


2,400 



a Minimum rounds expended. 
b Not available. 

Source: CINPAC-CINCPOA Translation 10018, Summary of the American Army Counterattack in the Gilbert Area of November 1943, 
Imperial Headquarters, Army Department, dated January 1944; PACMIRS Captured Japanese Document MR-50 (D-65), Military Action 
in the Gilbert Islands {Girubato shoio ni okeru sento), translated by Joseph Guilfoyle, filed in OCMH. 



Makin. 42 Planes from the Northern and 
Southern Carrier Groups released ninety- 
five tons of bombs on Makin and sixty- 
nine on Betio Island. One enemy plane 
was shot down by the Northern Carrier 
Group off Makin while three were disposed 
of near Tarawa. Cruisers and destroyers of 
the Southern Carrier Group moved close 
to Tarawa shortly before noon on 19 
November and, between air strikes, bom- 
barded ground defenses. 

The same day the Interceptor Carrier 
Group of Admiral PownalPs task force 
moved into position northwest of Makin 
and, from a point about midway between 
the Gilberts and the Marshalls, launched 
a series of attacks against Jaluit and Mille. 
One hundred and thirty tons of bombs 
were dropped on these two atolls. Power 
stations at both places were destroyed, 
hangars burned, and other buildings hit. 
Runways were rendered unserviceable at 
Mille and three vessels in the lagoon were 
damaged. Seven aircraft were destroyed 
on the ground. 

Although it is impossible to determine 
the exact amount of damage wrought by 



this pre-D-Day bombardment, one certain 
fact emerges — the Japanese wasted a con- 
siderable amount of their precious ammu- 
nition against these aerial attacks. What- 
ever else the preliminary bombardment 
may or may not have accomplished, it 
wreaked havoc on the enemy's ammunition 
supply. (Table 1, above.) 

The heavy expenditure of 13-mm. ma- 
chine gun ammunition was particularly 
important since these weapons were to 
form the main basis of ground fire defense. 
It is clear that the Japanese recognized the 
seriousness of the problem. One of their 
dispatches sent back to Tokyo warned, 
"We must quickly replenish ammo for 
the 13 mm. MGs on both Tarawa and 
Makin." 43 

Movement Overseas 

Following the final rehearsal at Maui 
on 4 November the Northern Attack Force 
had returned to Pearl Harbor, where most 
of the troops debarked for a week's rest 

42 Ibid., pp. 90-91. 

43 GINGPAG-GINGPOA Translation 10018. 



PREPARING FOR THE ATTACK 



57 





SOUTHERN ATTACK FORCE steaming toward the Gilberts; in the foreground a TBF-1 
Avenger performs an antisubmarine patrol. 



and rehabilitation. Part of the task force 
had already left for the Gilberts. On 31 
October six LST's, escorted by a destroyer, 
had left Oahu carrying part of the garri- 
son troops that would occupy Makin after 
its capture. Five days later, as soon as re- 
fueling could be completed after the re- 
turn from the rehearsal, the three LST's 
carrying amphibian tractors and the spe- 
cial landing groups that would man them 
departed for Makin with a destroyer es- 
cort. They traveled by a shorter route than 
the first convoy and were scheduled to 
arrive at their destination at precisely the 
same time as the main body of the assault 
force, which was to leave Pearl Harbor on 
the afternoon of 10 November. 44 Although 
the Northern Attack Force, the Northern 
Carrier Group, and the Interceptor Car- 



rier Group all departed from the Hawaiian 
Islands at the same time, they did not 
travel together; the two carrier groups 
moved along a course parallel to that fol- 
lowed by the Northern Attack Force but 
about 300 miles to the northwest. The two 
routes of approach changed approxi- 
mately 800 miles east of the Gilberts, with 
the Northern Attack Force turning to meet 
the Southern Attack Force, the two car- 
rier groups diverging and moving directly 
to their assigned stations. 

Meanwhile, following rehearsals in 
Efate, the Southern Attack Force, com- 
posed of transports, fire support ships, and 
auxiliaries, sortied from that island on 13 

44 TF 54 Movement Order Al-43, 20 Oct 43; 
CINCPAC-CINCPOA Opns in POA, Nov 43, Annex 
E, Plate II. 



58 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 





r4 - " 



BRIEFING TROOPS on scale models of Butaritari. This training during the voyage to 
Butaritari facilitated the landings. 



November. It was tollowed by the fast bat- 
tleships, cruisers, and carriers of the South- 
ern Carrier Group. Two days later, on 15 
November, the Relief Carrier Force, com- 
posed of two carriers, three cruisers and 
four destroyers, left Espiritu Santo, also in 
the New Hebrides. The last-named force 
moved almost directly north, toward 
Nauru. The Southern Carrier Group and 
the Southern Attack Force moved along 
courses roughly parallel to each other, 
which brought them to points just south of 
Funafuti, where all ships refueled. From 
there the courses diverged, the Southern 
Carrier Group going directly to its ap- 
pointed area west of Apamama and 
Tarawa, and the Southern Attack Force 



moving in a northerly direction to a ren- 
dezvous on 18 November with the North- 
ern Attack Force coming from Pearl Har- 
bor. 45 Thereafter, ships of the two convoys 
moved along parallel courses toward the 
Gilberts to the northwest, the Northern 
Attack Force pulling slightly to the north 
as the islands were approached. 

Late on the afternoon of 18 November 
the northern LST group, still ahead of the 
rest of the assault force, had been discov- 
ered by Japanese planes. One enemy 
bomber attacked the little convoy but was 
driven off by antiaircraft gunfire. On 19 
November at 1435 another Japanese plane 

45 GINCPAG-CINGPOA Opns in POA, Nov 43, 
Annex E, p. 3 and Plate II. 



PREPARING FOR THE ATTACK 



59 



appeared overhead, but just as it was 
about to launch an attack, four U.S. 
fighter planes arrived on the scene and 
shot it down in flames. A more determined 
attack on the LST's was made after dark 
when two other Japanese bombers 
swooped low over the slow-moving vessels. 
The first, hit by ships' antiaircraft fire, 
burst into flames and fell into the sea, just 
missing the bow of one of the vessels. Burn- 
ing gas lighted up the entire convoy for 
several minutes. Soon afterwards the sec- 
ond enemy plane left without inflicting 
any damage. 46 

Aboard the transports, troops were un- 
dergoing their final briefing. At the last 
minute (on 19 November) General Ralph 
Smith decided to make one minor revision 
in the landing plan for the 165th Infantry 
on Makin. He requested permission to 
land one infantry company and one shore 
fire control party on the northeast tip of 
Butaritari on the afternoon of D Day and 
to land the balance of the battalion and 
one shore fire control party on the south 



end of Kuma Island on the morning of D 
plus l. 47 The object of this scheme was to 
set up a second envelopment of the Japa- 
nese — to catch the enemy as he was 
pushed eastward by the main attack or as 
he attempted to move across the reef to 
Kuma Island. 48 Whatever merit the plan 
may have had, it went untested. On Gen- 
eral Holland Smith's advice, Admiral 
Turner turned down the request and reaf- 
firmed his intention to go through with the 
original landing plan. 

In the early hours of 20 November the 
two attack forces reached their separate 
destinations. The transports moved toward 
their debarkation areas and the fire sup- 
port ships moved into shore for the initial 
bombardment. In the dim light of the 
early morning, the invasion of Butaritari 
and Betio began. 



46 USS LST31 War Diary, pp. 50-52. 

47 Fifth Amph Force Rpt, Capture of Gilbert 
Islands, Incl A, p. 14. 

48 Interv, Philip A. Crowl with Maj Gen Ralph C. 
Smith, 30 Oct 50. 



CHAPTER IV 



The Enemy 



Japanese Invasion of the Gilberts 

Japanese interest in the Gilberts dated 
from the earliest days of the war. The pri- 
mary strategic purpose of the empire at the 
beginning of the war was the occupation 
and development of what was called the 
Southern Resources Area — the Nether- 
lands Indies and adjacent regions. It was 
this part of the Pacific that contained most 
of the raw materials considered essential 
to Japan's economic welfare and military 
potential. As a corollary to the seizure of 
these islands, it was also believed necessary 
to maintain free lines of communication 
between the Japanese homeland and the 
Southern Resources Area. Finally, to 
guarantee the permanent success of its 
ventures, Japan hoped to cripple Allied 
naval strength in the Pacific and establish 
a strong defensive perimeter to protect the 
homeland and its new economic adjunct 
to the south. To accomplish these objec- 
tives, Japanese strategists contemplated 
three successive steps: the establishment of 
a perimeter along a line from the Kurils 
through the Marshalls, the Bismarcks, 
Timor, Java, Sumatra, and Malaya to 
Burma; the consolidation and strengthen- 
ing of this perimeter; and the defense of 
the perimeter. 1 

The responsibility for carrying out this 
plan in the Central Pacific and in the Bis- 
marcks area fell to the 4th Fleet, which be- 
fore Pearl Harbor commanded naval 



ground force garrisons in the mandated 
islands from its headquarters at Truk. Ac- 
cording to Imperial Navy plans formu- 
lated in November 1941 , the mission of 
the 4th Fleet at the beginning of the war 
was: 

1. Defend the South Sea Islands, patrol, 
maintain surface communications, capture 
Wake. At opportune time attack and destroy 
enemy advanced bases in South Pacific Area. 
In co-operation with Army capture Guam 
and then Bismarck Area. 



4. Defend and patrol points in South Sea 
Islands and Bismarcks. Maintain surface 
communications. Search for and attack en- 
emy shipping. Make surprise attacks and de- 
stroy enemy bases on our perimeter. 2 

The main offensive thrust was to reach 
southward to the Bismarcks area, while in 
the east the perimeter was to be held and 
strengthened by the capture of Wake. A 
minor part of this plan was the seizure of 
Makin Atoll in the Gilberts in order better 
to protect the more important Marshall 
Islands to the north. Makin, lying 0°40' 
east of the boundary of the Japanese Man- 
date, offered the advantage of being lo- 
cated about 240 nautical miles southeast 
of Jaluit, the most important seaplane base 
in the lower Marshalls. The seizure of 
Makin and its subsequent development 



1 United States Strategic Bombing Survey (USSBS) 
(Pacific), Naval Analysis Division, The Campaigns of 
the Pacific War (Washington, 1946), pp. 2-3. 

2 Ibid., pp. 47-48. 



THE ENEMY 



61 



into a seaplane base would make it pos- 
sible to extend air patrols closer to How- 
land, Baker, and the Ellice Islands and to 
protect the eastern flank of the Japanese 
perimeter from possible Allied advance 
through the Ellice-Gilberts chain. Also, 
since Makin was the northernmost of the 
Gilberts, it could be the most easily sup- 
plied by transport from the Marshall 
Islands. 3 

On 3 December 1941 one company was 
detached from the 51st Guard Force based 
on Jaluit and constituted the Gilberts Inva- 
sion Special Landing Force under Air Force 
command. This force, consisting of from 
200 to 300 troops plus laborers, left Jaluit 
by ship on 8 December and on the 10th 
reached Makin Atoll, which was forthwith 
occupied. One of the troopships also vis- 
ited Tarawa on 24 December. The entire 
operation yielded nine prisoners. 4 

After the invasion the Makin garrison 
set about constructing a seaplane base and 
coastal defenses. By August of 1942 the 
garrison had dwindled to only 43 men 
under a warrant officer, and it was this 
tiny group that was called upon to defend 
the atoll against the first American land- 
ing in the Central Pacific. 5 

Carlson's Raid and Its Aftermath 

On 17 August 1942 the 2d Marine 
Raider Battalion, consisting of 221 ma- 
rines under the command of Colonel Carl- 
son, landed on Makin from two subma- 
rines. The primary purpose of this raid 
was to confuse the Japanese and cause 
them to divert forces that might otherwise 
be assigned to the Guadalcanal area. 6 
Carlson himself stated the secondary pur- 
poses of the raid: 

This task group will execute landings on 
Makin from the USS NAUTILUS and USS 



ARGONAUT on 1 7 August for the purpose 
of destroying enemy troops and vital instal- 
lations and to capture important documents 
and prisoners. 7 

In the early hours of 1 7 August the raid- 
ers disembarked from the two submarines 
into rubber boats powered by outboard 
motors and landed on the southern coast 
of Butaritari. Heavy swells and mechan- 
ical failures in some of the engines pre- 
vented the party from making two separate 
landings as originally planned, but even- 
tually fifteen out of the eighteen boats 
managed to get ashore at one landing 
beach, while two others landed a mile 
north and another a mile south. 8 

Just after the landing one of the marines 
accidentally discharged his rifle. Believ- 
ing that all chance of surprise was lost, 
Colonel Carlson ordered Company A of 
his battalion to proceed across the island 

3 USSBS (Pacific), Naval Analysis Division, The 
American Campaign Against Wotje, Maloelap, Mille and 
Jaluit (Washington, 1947), pp. 18-19. 

4 The 51st Guard Force was part of the 6th Base Force, 
which was under command of 4th Fleet. 

Base Forces, Guard Forces and Defense Forces 
( Konkyochitai , Keibitai, Bobitai), Vol. 1, Dec 41 -May 
42, in U.S. National Archives, World War II Seized 
Enemy Records, Record Group 242, NA 12029, 
WDC 161090; 6th Base Force War Diary ( Dairoku 
konkyochitai senji niss hi), NA 12654, WDC 160599. 
Hereafter documents contained in the National Ar- 
chives collection will be cited by title, National Ar- 
chives (NA) number, and Washington Document 
Center (WDC) number. 

5 Land Forces (Rikujo butai), Vol. 2, NA 1 1665, 
WDC 161013. 

6 Ltr, CinC US Pacific Fleet to CinC US Fleet, 20 
Oct 42, sub: Solomon Islands Campaign — Makin 
Island Diversion, 6-13.0002/42(20756), Hq USMC 
Historical Division. 

7 TUG 7.15.3 (2d Marine Raider Bn) Opn Order 
1-42, 7 Aug 42. 

8 This account of Carlson's raid is taken from the 
following sources: CO 2d Marine Raider Bn, Rpt of 
the Raid Against Makin, 17-18 Aug 42, dated 3 Sep 
42; Ltr cited n. 6; Ltr, CTG 7.15 (USS Nautilus) to 
CTF 7, sub: Rpt of Marine-Submarine Raider Ex- 
pedition. All of these reports are on file at Head- 
quarters, USMC Historical Division. 



62 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



to the lagoon shore. By 0545 the company 
commander, Capt. Merwin C. Plumley, 
USMC, reported that he had captured 
Government House without opposition, 
and he was then ordered west along the 
lagoon road. By this time it had become 
apparent that the Japanese defenses were 
concentrated at the base of On Chong's 
Wharf on the lagoon shore and at Ukian- 
gong Point, the southwesternmost prom- 
ontory of Butaritari. Carlson asked for 
naval gunfire in this area, and Nautilus 
complied by firing some twenty-four 
rounds. Throughout the day isolated 
groups of Japanese were encountered, 
spirited fire fights ensued, and a number 
of enemy were killed. The chief Japanese 
response to the landing was from the air. 
At 1 130, two Japanese naval reconnais- 
sance planes scouted the island, dropped 
two bombs and then flew back north to a 
base in the Marshalls. About two hours 
later, twelve enemy planes arrived and 
bombed and strafed for an hour and a 
quarter. Two of the planes landed in the 
lagoon and were destroyed by Marine 
machine gun and antitank rifle fire. The 
third and last air raid occurred at 1630. 

Shortly thereafter, at 1 700, the marines 
began an orderly withdrawal to the south- 
ern coast, and within two hours the bulk 
of the battalion was boated, but only a few 
were able to get through the heavy surf 
and back to the submarines. A hundred 
and twenty men were left on the beach 
that night. By the following morning still 
more marines made their way through the 
surf, but at 0920 further evacuation was 
halted by an air raid, leaving seventy 
men, including Colonel Carlson, stranded 
on the beach. 

At this point, the battalion commander 
discovered that Japanese resistance was 
practically nonexistent, consisting of only 



a few troops scattered about the island. He 
sent out patrols to search for food and de- 
stroy the Japanese radio station at the base 
of On Chong's Wharf. A cache of aviation 
gasoline of 700 to 1,000 barrels was fired, 
and the marines ranged freely about the 
island, meeting only the most feeble re- 
sistance. The office of the Japanese com- 
mandant was searched and all available 
papers secured. Finally, on the evening of 
the second day, evacuation was completed 
and all of the rubber boats reached the 
Nautilus. 

This expedition cost the lives of thirty 
marines. Left ashore were twenty-one dead 
and nine others who were later captured 
and beheaded. 9 In retrospect, the entire 
expedition appears to have been ill ad- 
vised. Though little of any importance was 
learned and no subsequent attempt was 
ever made in the Pacific war to emulate 
the Makin raid, the observations of Major 
Roosevelt, who was Carlson's executive 
officer, were later of some value to the in- 
telligence staff" of the 27th Infantry Divi- 
sion in preparing plans for the ultimate in- 
vasion of Makin. Otherwise, there is no 
evidence that the raid of August 1942 
made any significant contribution to 
Allied victory in the Pacific. 

On the other hand, there is every reason 
to believe that this raid induced the Japa- 
nese to commit to the Gilberts far heavier 
forces than they had originally contem- 
plated. To that extent the progress of 
American arms across the Central Pacific 
was made more difficult. The Japanese re- 
sponse to Carlson's expedition was imme- 
diate. Troops were drawn from the Mar- 
shalls, the Carolines, and Japan and sent 
to garrison hitherto-unoccupied islands in 
the British Mandates. The Gilberts now 

9 Morison, Coral Sea, Midway and Submarine Actions, 
pp. 240-41. 



THE ENEMY 



63 



were occupied in force, and garrisons were 
established as well on Nauru and Ocean 
Islands. Before August, in all the islands 
south of the Marshalls the enemy had 
only the small force on Makin. After Au- 
gust they began a build-up in this area 
that was to result in several island strong- 
holds under an entirely new base force 
command. Even if it cannot be proved 
conclusively that Carlson's expedition was 
the sole cause of this change in policy, the 
raid can with certainty be credited with 
a rapid acceleration in the Japanese 
program of building up defenses in the 
Gilberts. 

No time was lost in replacing the Makin 
garrison. On 19 August, four reconnais- 
sance seaplanes from Kwajalein made a 
close search of the Makin area and found 
no trace of the Americans. This indicated 
that the coast was clear for a counterland- 
ing, in full company strength, which the 
Japanese had started to organize at Jaluit 
as soon as news of the raid was received. 
On the 20th a small advance detachment 
was flown to Makin from Jaluit and was 
shortly followed by the bulk of the force 
transported by ship. The nine marines left 
on Butaritari were taken prisoner and the 
equipment that Carlson was forced to 
abandon was captured. 10 

Now began a series of small troop move- 
ments from all directions into the fringe of 
British island possessions bordering the 
Marshalls. Nauru was invaded on 25 Au- 
gust and Ocean Island on the 26th. On the 
29th a landing force composed of one 
company of the 43d Guard Force (western 
Carolines) took over Nauru. Two days 
earlier a company detached from the 62d 
Guard Force (Jaluit) commenced to garri- 
son Ocean. This unit was joined a few days 
later by a company from the 41st Guard 
Force from Truk. Another company, from 



the 5th Special Base Force, left Saipan on 28 
August and on the 30th arrived at Makin, 
where it was to remain pending the arrival 
of a special naval landing force from the 
Japanese homeland. 11 

These moves were followed by the inva- 
sion of Apamama, which lasted from 31 
August to 4 September. 12 More important 
still, the entire Tokosuka 6th Special Naval 
Landing Force ( SNLF ) was dispatched from 
Japan to the Gilberts in September. This 
force consisted of 1,509 officers and men 
and was the first unit of any considerable 
size to arrive in the area. It was these 
troops that were to remain in the Gilberts, 
chiefly on Tarawa, until the American in- 
vasion in November 1943. 13 On 15 Sep- 
tember the main portion of the 6th SNLF 
arrived at Tarawa, and detachments were 
subsequently transferred to Apamama 
and Makin. 

In September and October small parties 
were sent from Tarawa to snuff out the few 
remaining communications centers main- 
tained by the Allies in the area. Since the 
beginning of the war a number of Austral- 
ian and New Zealand coastwatchers had 
stayed in various islands of the central and 
southern Gilberts, observing Japanese air 
and surface movements and radioing im- 
portant information to the Allies. These 
the Japanese now proceeded to eliminate 
quickly. On 26 September a small party 
landed on Beru Atoll and destroyed a 
British wireless station there. Next day 
Tamana Atoll was invaded. Here the Jap- 



10 6th Base Force War Diary, NA 12654, WDC 
160599; Base Forces, Guard Forces, and Defense 
Forces, Vol. 2, Jun 42-Nov 42, NA 12053, WDC 
1611 10. 

11 Ibid.; 41st Guard Force War Diary, NA 12134, 
WDC 161744. 

12 Land Forces, Vol. 2, NA 1 1665, WDC 161013. 

13 JICPOA Translation 3998, 6th Base Force Secret 
Directive 104-43. 



64 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



anese destroyed communications equip- 
ment and captured two Allied soldiers and 
one wireless operator. Also on the 27th, a 
second landing party captured communi- 
cations equipment on Maiana, Nonouti, 
and Kuria Atolls. Later, in October, 
Maiana and Nonouti were revisited and 
Abaiang and Beru raided, netting more 
wireless sets and a few prisoners. By 6 Oc- 
tober the Japanese declared that the Gil- 
berts were completely cleared of enemy 
personnel, and that all communications 
installations had been destroyed. 14 

Thus the Makin raid of August 1942 
constitutes a clear line of demarcation in 
Japanese policy in the Gilberts. Before 
that time there were only forty-three men, 
under command of a warrant officer, sta- 
tioned in the whole area. Within a month 
after Carlson's battalion landed on Makin, 
the total garrison for the Gilberts came to 
more than 1 ,500 troops plus four compa- 
nies on Nauru and Ocean. Just as signifi- 
cant was the change in the command 
structure for the area. Before August 1942 
the only command located in the Gilberts 
was the Special Landing Force at Makin. 
This force was subordinate to the 62d 
Guard Force based on Jaluit, which was 
subordinate to the 6th Base Force on Kwa- 
jalein, in turn subordinate to the 4th Fleet 
at Truk. 15 The Yokosuka 6th SNLF, assigned 
to the Gilberts with headquarters at 
Tarawa after the Carlson raid, was imme- 
diately under the 6th Base Force at Kwaja- 
lein. Under this headquarters two subor- 
dinate commands were set up at Makin 
and Apamama. In addition, two new 
commands were set up under the 6th Base 
Force — the 43d Guard Force Dispatched Land- 
ing Force on Nauru and the 62 d Guard Force 
Dispatched Landing Force on Ocean Island. 16 
The Gilberts and the nearby islands of 
Ocean and Nauru were obviously achiev- 



ing greater status in Japan's defensive 
strategy. 

Throughout the winter and early spring 
of 1943 other steps were taken to improve 
defenses in the Gilberts. Another recogni- 
tion of the increased importance of this 
area came on 15 February 1943 when the 
Yokosuka 6th Special Naval Landing Force was 
deactivated and the command in the Gil- 
berts was renamed the 3d Special Base Force. 
The new command was made responsible 
not only for the defense of Tarawa, Makin, 
and Apamama Atolls, but also of Nauru 
and Ocean Islands. 17 This was a signifi- 
cant command reorganization reflecting 
clearly the change in Japanese attitude 
toward the importance of the Gilberts 
after Carlson's raid. In the beginning of 
1942 Japan had nothing more than a 
lookout station in the Gilberts subordi- 
nated to a guard force command, which 
was in turn responsible to a base force at 
Kwajalein. Now, in February 1943, Jap- 
anese forces in the Gilberts were consti- 
tuted as a base force command on an 
echelon equal to that of the Kwajalein 
base force command. 

Parallel to these developments in com- 
mand organization was the steady progress 
being made in fortifying the various islands 
and improving their military potentialities. 
Beginning about 1 January 1943, the Jap- 
anese steadily shipped 4th Fleet laborers, 
mostly Koreans, to the islands south of the 
Marshalls for construction work. Some in- 



14 Land Forces, Vol. 2, NA 1 1665, WDC 161013. 

15 4th Fleet War Diary ( Daishi kantai senji nissfii), 
NA 11398, WDC 160336; 6th Base Force War Diary, 
NA 12654, WDC 160599; 4th Base Force Achievement 
Records, in General Account of Achievements in 
Campaigns of the Greater East Asia War ( Daitda 
sen'ekikoseki gaiken), NA 11617, WDC 160654. 

16 6th Base Force War Diary, NA 12654, WDC 
160599. 

17 Base Forces and Guard Forces, Vol. 3, Dec 42- 
May 43, NA 12055, WDC 161 108. 



THE ENEMY 



65 



dication of the cost involved in the fortifi- 
cations under construction is afforded by 
the fact that, on 4 March 1943, 7,409,000 
yen ($1,736,669.60) was earmarked for air 
base construction in the Gilberts and land 
fortifications on Nauru. 18 

An even stronger indication of the in- 
creasing importance of the Gilberts to 
Japanese defensive strategy was the de- 
tachment of the Sasebo 7th Special Naval 
Landing Force from the Southeastern Area 
Fleet (Rabaul) and its commitment to 
Tarawa under the 4th Fleet. Arriving in 
May, the force remained on Tarawa until 
the American invasion in November. 19 
This move as much as any other single 
event was evidence of the declining sig- 
nificance attached by the Japanese high 
command to the Solomons-New Guinea 
area, and by the same token of the increas- 
ing importance of the Central Pacific, in- 
cluding the Gilberts. Also in May, the 
Japanese established a new plan of over- 
all defense called the £ Operation. Accord- 
ing to this plan the defensive perimeter 
was drawn through the Aleutians, Wake, 
the Marshalls, the Gilberts, Nauru, Ocean, 
and the Bismarcks. The principal positions 
along the perimeter were to be strength- 
ened and local commanders were to be re- 
sponsible for defense in case of invasion. 
Garrison forces at the point of attack were 
instructed to destroy the enemy at the 
shore line. If the enemy should succeed in 
forcing a landing, local forces were to 
counterattack persistently in an effort to 
delay the invaders as long as possible and 
to prevent the establishment of bases. 2 ' 1 

Meanwhile, construction of fortifica- 
tions and airfields was proceeding apace. 
The main concentration of effort was on 
Tarawa. Concrete and log emplacements 
for guns of all sizes up through 14 centi- 
meters were constructed, transmitting and 



receiving stations set up, coconut trees 
logged and transported from outlying 
islands, tank barricades and tank pits con- 
structed, underwater obstacles emplaced, 
and dugouts made for individual riflemen 
and machine gunners. 21 Similar though 
not nearly so extensive preparations were 
being made concurrently on Makin. 

The air base on Makin was completed 
and ready to accommodate reconnaissance 
and fighter seaplanes by July 1943. At 
Tarawa construction on an airstrip was 
begun in October 1942, and a trial land- 
ing of a land-based bomber was made on 
28 January 1943. By 31 May the major 
runway on Betio, Tarawa Atoll, was 80 
percent completed, positions for planes 
100 percent, and a secondary runway 40 
percent. 22 

Thus, while high-level staff planners of 
the Allied forces were gradually coming to 
the decision to institute a drive across the 
Central Pacific, the Japanese in that area 
were preparing against the expected at- 
tack as rapidly as conditions permitted. 
Necessity had compelled the Japanese to 
admit the probability of defeat in the 
Solomons-New Guinea area though Ra- 
baul, it is true, had not yet been given up 
as lost, and valiant efforts were to be made 
in the autumn of 1943 to save that bastion 
from disaster. As the year wore on, how- 
ever, it became more and more apparent 
that the most immediate threat to Japan's 
perimeter defense was in the Central Pa- 
cific, and it was here that the Japanese 

18 Special Forces (Tokusetsu butai , , Vol. 3, Part 1, 
NA 12032, WDC 161106. 

19 Tabular Records of Special Landing Forces, NA 
1 1651, WDC 161406. 

20 USSBS, Campaigns of the Pacific War, pp. 6-7. 

21 JICPOA Translation 5085, Construction of For- 
tifications at Tarawa, Nauru, and Ocean Islands; Spe- 
cial Forces, Vol. 3, Part 2, NA 12028, WDC 161705. 

22 Japanese Bases in the Mandated Islands and 
Gilberts, MS, Office of Naval History. 



THE ENEMY 



67 



high command hoped to force a show- 
down with the invading forces from the 
east. 

American Attacks and Japanese 
Responses 

September witnessed the opening of the 
first large-scale American aerial attacks 
against the Gilberts and nearby islands. 
Planes of Admiral Pownall's fast carrier 
force, assisted by Army Air Forces B-24's 
from Canton and Funafuti, struck Makin, 
Tarawa, and Nauru on 18-19 September. 
According to one Japanese diary, twenty- 
eight laborers were killed during the strike 
on Makin, probably from a direct hit on a 
shelter. 23 The damage done by the raid on 
Betio was more serious. The runway was 
hit, although not seriously enough to pre- 
vent repair by labor troops. 24 The antenna 
mast of a receiving station was knocked 
half down, and a transmitting station com- 
pletely destroyed. A storehouse and a hos- 
pital were completely destroyed, as were 
the entire air force kitchen and half of the 
Sasebo 7th Special Naval Landing Force kitch- 
en. The damage to air communications 
installations was particularly serious. The 
transmitting station destroyed by the air 
raid was evidently the chief means of com- 
munication with other islands and on 
Betio itself, judging by the measures taken 
to restore it — two transmitters were bor- 
rowed from the Sasebo 7th Special Naval 
Landing Force (one set from the receiving 
room and one from the medium attack 
plane command post) and another from 
the 3d Special Base Force. 25 

Following the raid, one of the island 
defenders wrote in his diary: "The island 
is a sea of flames. . . . Seven of our medi- 
um attack bombers were destroyed and a 
great number of our guns were damaged. 
Moreover, shell dumps, ammunition 



dumps, various storehouses and barracks 
on Bairiki [the island just east of Betio] 
were destroyed. A great number of men 
were killed and wounded." 26 

Whether or not this individual report 
was exaggerated, the response of the Japa- 
nese at Tarawa was immediate. On 24 
September, Rear Adm. Keiji Shibasaki, 
IJN, commanding officer of the 3d Special 
Base Force, ordered the commanding offi- 
cers of the 1 11th Construction Unit and the 
4th Fleet Construction Department Detachment 
to build immediately a bombproof shelter 
for communications equipment. 27 Later, it 
was reported: "Work was started immedi- 
ately and is scheduled to be completed 
during October. After the work is com- 
pleted, one transmitter and three receivers 
will be installed in the station. No matter 
what happens, we hope to be able to main- 
tain radio communications." 28 At the 
same time work was begun on a trans- 
mitting station, which according to plans 
was to be of concrete and to contain three 
short-wave transmitters and one long- 
wave transmitter with attachments. Com- 
pletion date was scheduled for December. 29 

Another important result of the Septem- 
ber raids was the evacuation of aircraft 
from Tarawa. Before the raids there had 
been three air installations in the 3d Special 
Base Force area, airfields at Nauru and 
Tarawa, and a seaplane base at Makih. 



2 - ! JICPOA Translation 499 1, Extracts from a Diary 
at Makin. 

24 Base Forces and Guard Forces, Vol. 4, Jun 43- 
Nov43, NA 12030, WDC 161091. 

25 JICPOA Translation 4051, Report of Present 
Conditions at Tarawa Air Base on 29 September 
194 3, 755th Naval Air Group, Tarawa Detachment. 

26 JICPOA Translation 3872, Diary of an Artil- 
leryman in Yokosuka 6th SNLF. 

27 JICPOA Translation 507 1, Gilbert Area Defense 
Force Special Order No. 18. 

28 JICPOA Translation 405 1 . 

29 Ibid. 



68 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



One of the most important duties of these 
installations was to maintain patrols in the 
southeast corner of the Japanese-held Cen- 
tral Pacific. Patrols from Nauru covered 
the area south of that island; patrols from 
Makin covered the area to the east; and 
patrols from Tarawa extended to the 
southeast between the other two. 30 The 
Japanese had originally intended to build 
up the Tarawa airfield and plane comple- 
ment to considerable strength, and by 
early September there were 330 air per- 
sonnel on the island and 18 planes. How- 
ever, the Allied carrier strike of 18-19 
September seriously disrupted operations 
and installations and destroyed nine of the 
planes. 31 After this it was decided to evacu- 
ate the air units, and Tarawa was never 
again used as a Japanese air base. After 
the removal of the planes from Tarawa, 
Makin assumed full responsibility for pa- 
trolling the Gilberts. By November there 
were only four amphibious reconnaissance 
planes at Makin charged with the dual 
mission of reconnaissance and antisub- 
marine patrol. 32 For all practical purposes, 
Japanese local air defenses were elimi- 
nated by the strikes of 18-19 September. 

Meanwhile, the Japanese Navy was 
preparing its own plans for a defense of 
the Gilberts-Marshalls area and for a de- 
cisive engagement with the U.S. Pacific 
Fleet. Plans for the defense of the Gilberts 
by the Japanese Fleet were drawn up 
about 8 September 1943 and included the 
following moves: (1) Large and, if possi- 
ble, small submarines in the Rabaul area 
were to move up and operate in the vicin- 
ity of the Gilberts. (2) The 2d Fleet was to 
advance and operate in an area west and 
north of Nauru so as to decoy the U.S. 
Pacific Fleet. Then, after thirty-six land- 
based attack planes from Rabaul had car- 
ried out attacks against the invading fleet, 



the 2d Fleet was to move up to the Mille 
area and continue operations. (3) If neces- 
sary, a destroyer squadron was to come up 
from the Rabaul area and participate in 
the operations. (4) Planes of the 3d Fleet 
that were undergoing training were to join 
in these operations if necessary, regardless 
of the amount of training they had com- 
pleted. 33 

In September 1943 the main striking 
force of the Japanese Navy was based at 
Truk and was under the command of Ad- 
miral Mineichi Koga, Commander in 
Chief, Combined Fleet. It consisted chiefly of 
the superbattleships Yamato and Musashi, 
and two battleships and a destroyer 
squadron from the 1st Fleet. Also included 
in Koga's force were the 2d and 3d Fleets, 
which had the combined strength of 3 
carriers, 2 battleships, 1 1 heavy cruisers, 3 
light cruisers, and a large number of de- 
stroyers. 34 It was this force that Koga tried 
to hold together for a decisive blow against 
the U.S. Fleet. His was "... not a plan 
of any positive action to draw the Ameri- 
can Fleet into a decisive action, but rather 
to wait until the American Fleet came 
up; and he felt sure that they were bound 
to come up if he only waited." 35 

On two occasions before the American 
landings on Makin and Tarawa, Koga 
sortied from Truk with part of this formi- 
dable task force in the hope of meeting 
American warships. Each time he had to 



30 JIGPOA Translation 3590, Incl 1, Location of 
Patrols. 

31 JICPOA Translation 4051. 

32 JIGPOA Bull 8-44, Japanese Forces in the Gil- 
bert Islands, p. 1. 

33 USSBS, Campaigns of the Pacific War, p. 200. 

34 Tabular Records of Daily Movements of Japa- 
nese Battleships, Carriers and Cruisers, NA 1 1792, 
WDC 160677. 

35 USSBS (Pacific), Naval Analysis Division, Inter- 
rogations of Japanese Officials, 2 vols. (Washington, 
1946), Vol. II, p. 512. 



THE ENEMY 



69 



return to his home base without having 
given battle. The first expedition occurred 
in September when the admiral learned 
that PownalPs fast carrier force was ap- 
proaching the Marshalls- Gilberts area. Im- 
mediately he dispatched a large force, 
composed of elements of the 2d and 3d 
Fleets, which proceeded to Eniwetok, the 
location from which he considered it best 
to base an attack. The force consisted of 3 
carriers, 2 battleships, 7 heavy cruisers, 
and 3 light cruisers. 36 It left Truk on 18 
September and arrived at Eniwetok on the 
20th. Not finding the expected American 
task force (then operating well to the south 
and east) the Japanese fleet returned to 
Truk. 

The second large fleet sortie from Truk 
occurred in October when Koga's radio 
intelligence indicated the strong possibility 
of an Allied raid against Wake or the 
Marshalls. Koga, hoping that this was the 
opportunity for the decisive engagement 
he had missed the previous month, once 
again dispatched a large fleet from Truk to 
Eniwetok on 17 October. The October 
force was even more powerful than the 
September one. Included were the same 3 
carriers, plus 6 battleships, 8 heavy cruis- 
ers, and 3 light cruisers. These ships re- 
mained in Eniwetok for a few days then 
sailed north some 300 miles toward Wake 
and returned once again to Truk. 37 No ele- 
ments of the American fleet were en- 
countered. Pownall's carriers, which had 
conducted a highly successful strike against 
Wake on 5-6 October, were by that time 
safely back in the Pearl Harbor area. 

While Admiral Koga was playing cat 
and mouse with the elusive American task 
forces in the Marshalls, American pressure 
was threatening the Japanese Southeast 
Area. At the end of September Imperial 
General Headquarters adopted an opera- 



tional policy for the Rabaul area "consist- 
ing merely of a whittling-down campaign 
against the enemy which relied upon the 
momentary use of crucial battle forces 
when conditions were favorable." 38 This 
policy was embodied in the RO Operation, 
which was to utilize the planes of Koga's 
Carrier Division 1 from land bases in the 
Rabaul area, and was to have been acti- 
vated around the middle of October. Since 
the carriers of Division 1 were the only 
vessels of this type in the entire Japanese 
Navy with anywhere near full plane com- 
plements at the time, the RO Operation 
would partially incapacitate the Japanese 
Fleet. It was undoubtedly this considera- 
tion that led Koga to postpone the RO 
Operation in order to make one last attempt 
at a decisive naval engagement while he 
still had his fleet intact. After failing in this 
attempt and after his arrival at Truk on 26 
October, he ordered the RO Operation acti- 
vated and took steps to dispatch the planes 
of Carrier Division 1 to the Rabaul area. 39 
This decision had a profound, and from 
the American point of view, wholly bene- 
ficial effect on the forthcoming invasion of 
the Gilberts and Marshalls. 

Leaving their carriers behind at Truk, 
a total of 173 planes of Carrier Division 1 
flew down to Rabaul on 1 November and 
remained in the area until the 13th. 4n 



38 Tabular Records of Battleships . . . , NA 
1 1792, WDC 160677. 

37 Ibid. 

38 Historical Section, G-2, General Headquarters, 
Far East Command, Japanese Studies in World War 

II, No. 50, Southeast Area Naval Operations, Vol. 

III, p. 5, OCMH. 

39 Aircraft Carriers ( Kubo ), Vols. 3 and 4 in Merit 
Board of the Imperial Japanese Navy, Greater East 
Asia War Campaigns: Materials for Investigation of 
Meritorious Service ( Daitoa sen'eki koseki chosa shiryo 
tsuzuri), NA 12552 WDC 161734, and NA 12060, 
WDC 161 102. 

"Tabular Records of Battleships . . . , NA 11792, 
WDC 160677. 



70 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



While there, they engaged in three air 
battles and lost 121 planes or roughly two 
thirds of the entire force. 41 At the same 
time, on receiving word of the Allied land- 
ing at Bougainville (1 November), Ad- 
miral Koga dispatched the 2d Fleet along 
with elements of the 3d Fleet to Rabaul. 
The force arrived at Rabaul on 5 Novem- 
ber and was immediately subjected to a 
fierce attack by planes from Rear Adm. 
Frederick C. Sherman's fast carrier force 
(Task Force 38) and again on the 1 1th not 
only by Sherman's force but also by Ad- 
miral Montgomery's Task Group 50. 3. 42 
Altogether, four of Koga's heavy cruisers 
(Takao, Maya, Atago, and Mogami) were so 
damaged during these strikes as to be non- 
operational during the Gilberts invasion. 
Another two (Myoko and Haguro ) had been 
put out of operation by gunfire and by col- 
lision during the initial landings on Bou- 
gainville at Empress Augusta Bay. Still 
another (Tone ) was in dry dock under- 
going periodic check-up. Thus, of the 
eleven heavy cruisers that Koga had had 
under his command in September of 1943, 
only four remained operational in mid- 
November. All but one of the remainder 
had been temporarily put out of operation 
at Rabaul or Bougainville. 43 

The loss of these cruisers, coupled with 
the tremendous attrition of carrier planes 
at Rabaul, meant that the Japanese battle- 
ships based at Truk were virtually im- 
mobilized, since they would not dare enter 
combat without proper protection. The 
sorry plight in which the Japanese Navy 
now found itself, facing as it did an im- 
pending American invasion of the Central 
Pacific, can best be summarized in the 
words of Vice Adm. Shigeru Fukudome, 
IJN: 

But in November, as Bougainville landing 
operations commenced, he [Koga] was forced 



to send his air strength to Rabaul. As it 
turned out, practically all of them were lost 
at Rabaul and Bougainville. Consequently, 
the Fleet air strength was almost completely 
lost, and although the Gilberts fight appeared 
to be the last chance for a decisive fight, the 
fact that the fleet's air strength had been so 
badly depleted enabled us to send only very 
small air support to Tarawa and Makin. The 
almost complete loss of carrier planes was a 
mortal blow to the fleet since it would require 
six months for replacement. ... In the 
interim, any fighting with carrier force was 
rendered impossible. 44 

No better testimony could be adduced 
to the mutual interdependence of the vari- 
ous Allied forces operating in different 
areas of the Pacific. Without the tremen- 
dous losses inflicted on the Japanese by 
forces under General MacArthur and Ad- 
miral Halsey, the Central Pacific forces 
under Admiral Nimitz would certainly 
have faced far greater odds in their inva- 
sion of the Gilberts. 



Japanese Defenses on the Eve 
of the Attack 

By the morning of 20 November when 
the ships of Admiral Turner's Northern 
Attack Force hove into view of Makin 



41 Japanese Studies in World War II, No. 50, Vol. 
Ill, p. 26. 

42 Samuel Eliot Morison, HISTORY OF UNITED 
STATES NAVAL OPERATIONS IN WORLD 
WAR II, Vol. VI, Breaking the Bismarcks Barrier, 22 
July 1942-1 May 1944 (Boston: Little, Brown and Com- 
pany, 1950), pp. 323-36. 

43 Tabular Records of Battleships . . . , NA 
1 1792, WDC 160677; USSBS, Campaigns of the Pacific 
War, pp. 152-53. 

44 USSBS, Interrogations of Japanese Officials, Vol. II, 
p. 516. Perhaps even more important than the plane 
losses was the attrition of carrier pilots. Of 192 flight 
crews from Carrier Division 1 dispatched to the Rabaul 
area in November 1943, 86 were lost. Japanese 
Studies in World War II, No. 50, Vol. Ill, p. 26. 



THE ENEMY 



71 



Atoll, the Japanese had on the main island 
of Butaritari an estimated 798 men under 
command of Lt. (j.g.) Seizo Ishikawa, com- 
mander of the 3d Special Base Force Makin 
Detachment. This figure by no means repre- 
sents the enemy's combat strength since 
the majority were labor troops (mostly 
Korean) whose combat effectiveness was 
only slightly more than nil. The organiza- 
tion of Japanese forces on D Day was 



roughly as follows: 

Unit Number 

Total 798 

3d Special Base Force Makin Detachment 284 

Air personnel 100 

111th Construction Unit 138 

4th Fleet Construction Department Detachment 276 



The air personnel were ground crews 
left marooned on the island after the planes 
had escaped. How well they were armed 
or how effective they were as combat 
troops it is impossible to know. Of the 
labor troops, about 220 were Korean, the 
remainder Japanese who were not in the 
service either because of age or physical 
infirmities. 45 None of the labor troops was 
assigned a battle station and none had any 
training, although it appears that the 
Japanese workers and perhaps a few 
Koreans were issued rifles on D Day. 
Thus, the maximum total of trained com- 
bat troops on Makin came to no more 
than 384, and the actual number was 
probably no more than 300. 

As to defense installations, the Japanese 
had been able or willing to fortify Butari- 
tari with only a bare minimum. A perime- 
ter defense had been established around 
the seaplane base on the lagoon shore. (See 
Map II.) Defenses on the lagoon shore were 
comparatively light, consisting mainly of 
three dual-purpose 8-cm. guns at the base 
of King's Wharf and a few machine guns. 
Running from the lagoon to the ocean were 



two tank barrier systems, each partially 
guarded by strands of trip wire and covered 
by antitank guns, machine guns, and rifle 
pits. The West Tank Barrier was made up 
of a wide ditch and a coconut log barrier. 
The ditch extended from the lagoon ap- 
proximately two thirds of the way across 
the island, was 12 to 13 feet wide, and 
about 5 feet deep. The log barrier, starting 
at the south end of the ditch and extending 
to the ocean shore, was about 4.5 feet high 
and braced from the east by diagonal logs. 
Altogether a total of one antitank gun, one 
concrete pillbox, 6 machine gun positions, 
and 50 rifle pits covered this barrier. 

The East Tank Barrier, more heavily 
fortified than that to the west, consisted of 
a trench 14.5 feet wide by 6 feet deep 
stretching from the lagoon about two thirds 
of the way across the island and bent in the 
middle toward the westward. From the 
southern terminus of this trench to the 
ocean shore a log antitank barricade had 
been erected and a similar barricade lay to 
the east of the northern section of the 
trench. Double-apron wire and trip wire 
had been laid in continuous lines across 
the entire island in the same area. West of 
the trap itself was an intricate system of 
gun emplacements and rifle pits. Three 
pillboxes of either log or cement barred the 
approach to the trap. Lying between these 
emplacements and connecting them was a 
series of forty-three rifle pits, interspersed 
with machine guns. Immediately to the 
west of this line in the center of the island 
was another group of twenty-three rifle 
pits. On the south shore between the termi- 
nus of the road running from the end of 
Stone Pier and the southern end of the 
tank barrier were located nineteen more 
rifle pits, two machine guns, and a 70-mm. 

4 - JIGPOA Bull 8-44, pp. 8-9. 



THE ENEMY 



73 



howitzer, all placed to protect the ocean 
shore. 46 

Along the ocean shore a series of strong 
points had been established, incorporating 
3 8-cm. coast defense guns, 3 antitank posi- 
tions, 10 machine gun emplacements, and 
85 rifle pits. Obviously, the Japanese ex- 
pected that any invasion of the island 
would be made on the ocean shore, follow- 
ing the example of Carlson's raid. On 
either side of the heavily defended area 
was an outpost consisting of a squad of 
men, a lookout tower approximately 70 
feet high, and telephone communication to 
command posts within the fortified area. 

The defended area was divided into 
three parts. Aviation personnel were quar- 
tered in the eastern portion, the majority 
of the garrison force lived in the center, 
and the Korean laborers were billeted in 
the western part. 

The island of Betio in Tarawa Atoll was 
much more heavily manned and fortified. 
There the garrison, commanded by Ad- 
miral Shibasaki, consisted of an estimated 
4,836 men organized as follows: 47 

Unit Number 

Total 4,836 

3d Special Base Force 1,122 

7th SNLF 1,497 

111th Construction Unit 1,247 

4th Fleet Construction Department Detachment .... 970 

Of this number, the members of the 3d 
Special Base Force and the Sasebo 7th Special 
Naval Landing Force were trained combat 
troops. The extent of combat effectiveness 
of the labor troops on the island is more 
difficult to determine. The combat impor- 
tance of these construction units usually 
varied with the number of Japanese per- 
sonnel since the Koreans were almost never 
given weapons. The 4th Fleet Construction 
Department was about 85 percent Korean 
and the 111th Construction Unit about 30 



percent Korean. 48 Thus, if all of the Japa- 
nese laborers at Tarawa were trained and 
equipped for combat, the total effective 
strength on that atoll would have been 
over 3,600. However, it appears that the 
military organization of the labor troops 
may have existed mostly on paper, and the 
training program set up for them by the 
Japanese, even if carried out, would at best 
have provided a reserve force of limited 
value. 49 Thus, a safe guess as to the num- 
ber of combat effectives on Tarawa would 
probably be about 3,000. 

Betio itself had been built into an island 
fortress of the most formidable aspect. The 
island had been organized for an all- 
round de cisive defense at the beach. (See 
Map II. ) The basic beach defense weapon 
along the entire north coast and on both 
sides of the eastern tip was the 13-mm. 
machine gun. Along the western and 
southwestern coasts the 7. 7 -mm. machine 
gun was used for the same purpose. The 
guns were located in open emplacements 
to allow the additional mission of antiair- 
craft fires. Those on the northern coast 
were so positioned as to permit flanking 
fire to the front of artificial barriers (tetra- 
hedrons) that had been emplaced along 
the reef, or frontal fire on the direct ap- 
proaches to the beach. 

Inshore, organization for defense was 
more haphazard. Bombproof ammunition 
and personnel shelters were put to use as 
defensive positions in depth, although they 
had not originally been constructed for 
that purpose. In some cases, the fire from 
the doorways of these shelters was mutu- 



46 JICPOA Bull 4-44, Study of Japanese Installa- 
tions on Butaritari Island, Makin Atoll, map facing 
p. 1. 

47 JICPOA Bull 8-44, p. 4. 

48 JICPOA Translation 4096, Projected Installa- 
tions at Jaluit and Truk. 

49 JICPOA Bull 8-44, p. 4. 



74 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



ally supporting, but this was only by acci- 
dent. For the most part they were blind to 
attack from several directions, and since 
they had not been designed as blockhouses, 
had only a few firing ports. The basic 
weapons were complemented by a network 
of obstacles including antitank ditches, 
beach barricades, log fences and concrete 
tetrahedrons on the fringing reef, double- 
apron high-wire fences in the water near 
the beach, and double-apron low-wire 
fences on the beach itself. The larger ob- 
stacles on the reef were designed to canal- 
ize the approach of boats into areas that 
could be swept effectively by antiboat fires 
from 127-mm., 80-mm., 7-cm., 37-mm., 
and 13-mm. guns. The lighter double- 
apron fences were laid along diagonal lines 
from the beaches, and machine guns were 
emplaced in every case so that flanking 
fires could be laid parallel to the wire and 
just forward of it. Altogether, on Betio there 
was a total of four 8-inch guns, four 14-cm., 
four 12.7 cm., six 8-cm., ten 75-mm. moun- 
tain guns, six 70-mm. howitzers, eight 
7-cm. dual-purpose single mounts, nine 
37-mm. field guns, twenty-seven 13-mm. 
single mounts, four 13-mm. double mounts, 
and seven tanks mounting 37-mm. guns. 

Fire control equipment was installed for 
the coast defense, and antiaircraft bat- 
teries, including range finders, directors, 
and searchlights, had been set up. For the 
most part weapons were mounted in care- 
fully and strongly constructed emplace- 
ments of coconut logs, reinforced concrete, 
and revetted sand. Ammunition and per- 



sonnel were protected from shelling and 
bombing by log and concrete bombproof 
shelters covered with sand to increase safety 
and improve camouflage. These shelters 
were ordinarily placed opposite the inter- 
val between, and inshore of, pairs of guns. 
Heavy gun ammunition was handled from 
bombproof shelters to ready boxes in con- 
crete emplacements by narrow-gauge rail- 
way and overhead chain hoist gear. 5 " 

This bare recital of enemy defense in- 
stallations on Betio does only scant justice 
to the really horrible obstacles that the at- 
tacking forces would have to overcome. 
Tarawa was the most heavily defended 
atoll that would ever be invaded by Allied 
forces in the Pacific. With the possible ex- 
ception of I wo Jima, its beaches were bet- 
ter protected against a landing force than 
any encountered in any theater of war 
throughout World War II. Makin, by com- 
parison, was lightly held. But any beach 
guns that are manned and ready to fire are 
formidable enough to the men of the first 
waves of an amphibious landing force. 
Boated in slow-moving craft, as they make 
their way from ship to shore they offer 
ideal targets to the waiting defenders — un- 
less the latter have been destroyed, or at 
least dispersed, by the attackers' naval and 
aerial bombardment. It was the hope of 
the landing forces at both Makin and 
Tarawa that this would be accomplished 
before the first troops touched shore. 

50 JICPOA and Intelligence Section, 2d Marine 
Division, Study of Betio Island, Tarawa Atoll, 2 parts, 
Part I, pp. 4-7. 



CHAPTER V 



The Landings on Makin 



Red Beaches 

On 20 November sunrise at Makin 
came at 0612. Weather was fair. Wind was 
east-southeast at thirteen knots, which 
meant there was relatively little surf either 
at the main landing beaches on the west 
coast or inside on the protected lagoon. 1 At 
0603 the first of the troop-carrying trans- 
ports, Leonard Wood, arrived on station in 
the transport area off Red Beaches on the 
western coast of Butaritari and com- 
menced to lower her boats. Within four 
minutes the three other transports and the 
cargo ship carrying the 165th Regimental 
Combat Team had followed suit. Admiral 
Turner sent the signal that H Hour would 
be at 0830 as planned and that William 
Hour for the landing on Yellow Beach on 
the north shore of the island would tenta- 
tively be 1030, a t ime subsequently con- 



firmed. |fMz/> III) 

From 06 1 to 0640 carrier-based planes, 
as scheduled, bombed, dive-bombed, and 
strafed the western beaches and inland. 
As they drew away, naval guns of the ac- 
companying battleships, cruisers, and de- 
stroyers opened fire and kept up a steady 
rain of shells until 0825, just five minutes 
before the first troops hit the shore. While 
this was taking place a half-hour rain 
squall almost hid the island from the 
anxious watchers aboard ship. Happily, 
by 0800 the rain lifted and landmarks, 
though still obscured slightly by smoke 



and dust raised by naval fire, came into 
fairly clear relief. As the ships ceased fire, 
aircraft again flew in low to strafe the 
beaches in a five-minute attack. Twenty 
minutes later naval guns again took up the 
chorus, keeping their bombardment well 
to the front of the advancing troops. 2 

The damage wrought during this first 
day by naval and aerial bombardment 
was considerable. In the immediate region 
of the main beaches and eastward little 
real damage was done — the destruction 
was generally confined to coconut trees, 
native huts, and a few dummy gun posi- 
tions. In the area of the West Tank Barrier, 
neither the ditch nor the log barricade of 
the trap was seriously damaged except 
for one direct hit from a heavy bomb near 
the northern terminus of the trench sys- 
tem. Just to the east of the main tank trap 
lay a well-defined trench system running 
at right angles to the beach. These trenches 
were comparatively shallow and were 
revetted at ends and intervals with coco- 
nut logs. The area was reported to be 
badly shot up. One trench received a di- 
rect hit from a 2,000-pound bomb which, 

1 TF 54 Opn Plan A2-43, 23 Oct 43, Annex B, p. 
43; Commander Central Pacific Force U.S. Pacific 
Fleet, War Diary, 1-30 November 1943, Annex A, 
p. 1. 

2 Fifth Amph Force Rpt, Capture of Gilbert Islands, 
Annex A, pp. 14-15; V Phib Corps Galvanic Rpt, 
Annex B, Rpt by G-3, pp. 1-2; 165th Infantry Regi- 
ment Combined Journal Events and Message File, 
20 Nov 43, located in AGO Records Administration 
Center, Kansas City, Missouri. 



76 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



in the words of Admiral Turner, "consid- 
erably scrambled the trench, Japs and 
trees for some distance." Sixty-two enemy 
dead were later counted in this one area, 
most of whom were the victims of a combi- 
nation of concussion and air bursts. In the 
area south of Yellow Beach and east to the 
East Tank Barrier all buildings were re- 
ported destroyed. Three 80-mm. antiair- 
craft positions at the base of King's Wharf 
and two light tanks revetted to act as pill- 
boxes were severely damaged. Forty-one 
eneniy dead were counted, of whom 
twenty-five were apparently killed by con- 
cussion from heavy bombs. 3 

Although the covered shelters in this 
area were not destroyed, a careful exam- 
ination made by the 27th Division's artil- 
lery commander after the landing showed 
that there was little in the area around 
Yellow Beach that was not covered either 
by a direct hit or by fragmentation. In his 
opinion, "a high degree of neutralization 
was obtained." 4 Admiral Turner's final 
conclusion was that "the effect of naval 
and air bombardment was highly satisfac- 
tory; and contributed materially in the re- 
duction of hostile resistance." "However," 
he added, "there was not enough of it." 5 

While the ships of the naval gunfire sup- 
port group pounded away at Butaritari, 
troops of the 1 65th Infantry continued to 
debark. In the early morning light they 
clambered down rope cargo nets into the 
waiting LGVP's. As soon as each craft had 
received its allotted quota of men (about 
thirty-six each), it moved off for a short 
distance and joined other small boats cir- 
cling in the assembly area. 6 

At 0643 two LGVP's left the side of 
Neville. Carrying a special detachment of 
the reinforced 2d Platoon of Company G, 
165th Infantry, and nineteen marines of 
the 4th Platoon of the V Amphibious 



Corps Reconnaissance Company, they 
were headed for Kotabu Island about a 
mile and a half north of Flink Point. Naval 
bombardment preceded them as they 
plunged into the ground swell for a ride of 
almost an hour's duration. 7 

Shortly thereafter the three tractor- 
laden LST's that had moved in separate 
convoy to Butaritari hove into view 
through the morning mist and took station 
in the transport area at about 0700. With- 
in an hour all the amphibian tractors 
bound for Red Beaches were in the water, 
circling and waiting the signal to approach 
the beaches. 8 

At 0750 the order was given to move to 
the line of departure. 9 The amphibian 
tractors formed two inverted V's, each 
pointed toward a beach, and one by one 
the other landing craft pulled off from 
their circles and formed a series of trian- 
gular formations constituting the sub- 
sequent landing waves. Two destroyers, 
Phelps and MacDonough, had taken station 
approximately 2,800 yards west of Red 
Beaches. When the first landing wave was 
between them, the two ships began to 
move slowly toward the island firing their 
5-inch guns. At 0815 the first wave of am- 
phibian tractors passed through the escort- 
ing destroyers and headed for the beach. 

3 Fifth Amph Force Rpt, Capture of Gilbert Islands, 
Incl H, pp. 6-10; V Phib Corps Galvanic Rpt, Incl 
F, Rpt by Special Staff Officers, Sec. II, Naval Gun- 
fire Rpt, pp. 1, 3. 

4 Ltr, 27th Inf Div Artillery Officer (Col Harold G. 
Browne) to CTF 52.6, 7 Dec 43, sub: Rpt on Naval 
Gunfire in Makin Opn, p. 2, AG 327 Art 0.3.0 
(22866), DRB AGO. 

5 Fifth Amph Force Rpt, Capture of Gilbert Islands, 
Incl H, p. 10. 

6 USS Leonard Wood Action Rpt, 20 Dec 43, p. 2; 
USS Calvert Action Rpt, 28 Nov 43, p. 2. 

7 V Phib Corps Galvanic Rpt, Incl C, p. 342. 

8 Fifth Amph Force Rpt, Capture of Gilbert Islands, 
Incl A, p. 15. 

9 USS Leonard Wood Action Rpt, 20 Dec 43, p. 3. 



THE LANDINGS ON MAKIN 



77 



They were followed by two waves of 
LCVP's carrying the main body of the 1st 
and 3d Battalion Landing Teams at ap- 
proximately five- minute intervals. The 
first wave of the 1st Battalion headed for 
Red Beach on the left and contained 233 
men in seven boats; the following waves 
consisted of only six boats each. In the first 
wave, at the rear center, was Lt. Col. 
Gerard W. Kelley, the battalion com- 
mander, together with the commander of 
Company D, the air-ground and Navy 
liaison parties, and some battalion com- 
munications personnel. To the right was 
the first wave of the 3d Battalion, heading 
for Red Beach 2. It had a similar boat 
schedule, with Lt. Col. Joseph T. Hart, the 
battalion commander, and the command- 
ing officer of Company M riding in the 
same boat. Each battalion was accompa- 
nied by two LCM's carrying light tanks 
with their crews, one light machine gun 
squad, two rifle squads, and other person- 
nel. 10 

As the leading wave of LVT's ap- 
proached the beaches they commenced to 
fire their rockets, but with less than even 
moderate success. Many fell short into the 
water; others would not fire at all because 
of defects in their firing mechanisms 
caused by salt water. At 1 ,000 yards the 
amphtracks' (amphibian tractors') .50- 
caliber machine guns opened fire, joined 
200 yards farther in by their .30-caliber 
machine guns. No sustained fire from the 
beaches was encountered. Off Red Beach 
2 enemy rifle fire wounded one seaman 
and killed another, but these were the only 
casualties recorded during the ship-to- 
shore movement. About forty yards off- 
shore the amphibians came over the coral 
reef. No barbed wire, mines, or other ob- 
stacles impeded them. At approximately 
0831 the tractors touched the rocks and 



lumbered up the beaches. The men of the 
special landing groups scrambled over the 
sides. 11 Some sought cover, but many stood 
still, waiting first for enemy fire before 
taking precautions. Maj. Edward T. Bradt, 
commanding the 3d Battalion, 105th In- 
fantry, and in charge of the special landing 
groups, later described his action. "I 
jumped down from my boat [sic] and stood 
straight up for two or three minutes, wait- 
ing for somebody to shoot me. Nobody 
shot! I saw many other soldiers doing the 
same thing." 12 

Following the LVT's came the first 
three waves of landing craft at about five- 
minute intervals. The first wave was 
scheduled to put a total of 460 men and 
eight tanks ashore in an area removed by 
approximately 3,000 yards from the main 
defenses on the island. Although intelli- 
gence had revealed the presence of rocks 
and coral pinnacles along the approaches 
to the shore, Admiral Turner's staff was 
satisfied that landing boats could get 
ashore there at any time. 13 

They were wrong. The reef was studded 
with coral boulders about forty yards off 
shore. Coming in on a rising tide, some of 
the landing craft were able to slip past the 
boulders and were held less than a boat's 
length (thirty-six feet) from the water's 
edge, but many were broached, stranded, 
or forced to put to sea again. The tanks, 



10 USS Phelps Action Rpt, 20-26 Nov 43, p. 2; USS 
MacDonough Action Rpt, Bombardment of Makin 
Island, 20 Nov 43, pp. 2, 3; BLT 165-1 FO 4, 1 1 Nov 
43, Annexes B and G. 

11 193d Tk Bn Rpt of Makin Opn, Sec. XIII f Rpt 
of Provisional Amph LVT Co, p. 34; Marshall, Makin 
Notes, p. Dl; Maj Millard G. Inskeep, Tanks in the 
Makin Action, and Sgt Frederick A. Baxter, Armored 
Force Action on Makin, MSS, OCMH. Major Inskeep 
was Executive Officer, 193d Tank Battalion. 

12 Marshall, Makin Notes, p. Dl. 

13 TF 52 Amph Attack Order A3-43, 23 Oct 43, 
Annex I. 



78 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 




LANDINGS ON RED BEACH were hazardous because of coral rock formations. 



waterproofed for the landing, rolled off the 
ramps into water which did not quite 
drown them out. Ahead of them, the men 
struggled in swells sometimes over their 
heads, stumbled over rocks and slipped on 
boulders, or sought cover at the edge of 
the beach. 

Red Beach, on the left, was a rubble of 
coral boulders and proved usable for only 
fifteen yards of its width. The seven land- 
ing craft of the first wave encountered 
great difficulties getting ashore. Some did 
not make it. The amphibian tractors that 
preceded the first wave had to abandon 
their original objectives to assist the boats 
stranded on the reef. Those few landing 
craft that did reach shore, moreover, found 
it difficult to withdraw and allow later as- 
sault waves to land. As the tide receded, 
landing operations were further compli- 



cated. Only the absence of enemy opposi- 
tion in this area made possible a landing 
without heavy casualties. Under any kind 
of enemy fire the natural obstacles to a 
landing here would have probably proved 
catastrophic to the attacking troops. 14 

The carefully prepared sequence for the 
arrival of various elements of the assault 
and shore parties on Red Beach was 
thrown into confusion by these conditions. 
At best, only three boats could be landed 
at one time, and the fifth wave was not 
able to get ashore until shortly after 1000, 
over an hour behind schedule. 15 

The landing on Red Beach 2, despite 
better conditions, was also delayed. The 



14 Marshall, Makin Notes, p. Dl; 193d Tk Bn Rpt 
of Makin Opn, Sec. XIII, Rpt of Provisional Amph 
LVTCo. 

15 27th Inf Div G-2 Jnl, 20 Nov 43. 



THE LANDINGS ON MAKIN 



79 



3d Battalion Landing Team, composed of 
1 ,250 men, was scheduled to land there in 
seven waves at five-minute intervals. Be- 
ginning at 0840 the first three waves 
landed, but the remaining boats landed 
singly, and it was 1022 before the seventh 
wave arrived off the beach. During D Day, 
in addition to these troops, Leonard Wood 
sent ashore 4 tanks, 1 bulldozer, 5 jeeps, 4 
antitank guns, and other portable equip- 
ment. 16 For the same period the transport 
Calvert disembarked 913 troops (of the 1st 
Battalion Landing Team) and eighty-two 
tons of equipment, but at nightfall much 
of the cargo was still afloat in landing 
craft. 17 

Establishing the Beachhead 

General Ralph Smith's plan called for 
the rapid capture of Flink Point and 
Ukiangong Point and the occupation of 
all of the area east of Red Beaches to the 
first beachhead line about 1,300 yards in- 
land. The 1st Battalion Landing Team on 
the left was to take Flink Point and the 
left half of the beachhead line. The 3d 
Battalion Team on the right was to cap- 
ture Ukiangong Village and Point and 
was responsible for the right half of the 
beachhead line. On the completion of this 
phase of the action, the 1st Battalion 
Landing Team would relieve the 3d and 
the latter was to go into division reserve in 
the area north of Ukiangong Village. 18 

The main force of the 1st Battalion 
moved directly forward toward the beach- 
head line, meeting only insignificant rifle 
fire but retarded somewhat by the thick 
vegetation and by debris and water-filled 
craters resulting from the air and naval 
bombardment. Their supporting light 
tanks were of no assistance to the infantry 
until late in the day. Bad communications 



between tanks and infantry and terrain 
difficulties slowed up the former's advance. 
Except by staying on the road, they could 
make no headway against the combined 
obstacles of debris, shell holes, and marsh, 
and on the main road inland they were 
held up by large craters left by naval 
shells. 19 

The 1st Battalion advanced with two 
companies abreast. On the right, Com- 
pany B and part of the 1st Platoon of 
Company D, a heavy machine gun pla- 
toon, covered the widest zone; their first 
action was the seizure of an undefended 
observation tower that was protected by 
barbed wire and log barricades. On the 
left, Company C moved straight ahead 
without waiting for its heavy weapons 
platoon to land. Company A remained in 
dispersed formation in battalion reserve. 20 

At the end of the first phase, at approxi- 
mately 1030, Companies B and C held the 
left half of the beachhead line just east of 
Rita Lake, the largest of several shallow 
ponds. The eastern edge of this pond 
stretched almost the entire length of the 
beachhead line south of the point at which 
it was crossed by the island highway. 
There, Company B had established con- 
tact with Company K of the 3d Battalion 
just across the highway on its right flank. 
Meanwhile, Company A had been dis- 
patched northward to occupy Flink Point 
and had progressed about halfway out 
that peninsula. 21 

While the 1st Battalion was pushing 



16 USS Leonard Wood Action Rpt, 20 Dec 43, p. 3. 

17 USS Calvert Action Rpt, 28 Nov 43, pp. 2-3. 

18 27th Inf Div FO 21, 23 Oct 43. 

19 193d Tk Bn Rpt of Makin Opn, pp. 71-77; V 
Phib Corps Galvanic Rpt, Incl F, Rpt by Special 
Staff Officers, Incl 3, Rpt of Engineer Officer, p. 3. 

20 Marshall, Makin Notes, pp. B2-B4. 

21 27th Inf Div G-3 Msg File, 20 Nov 43, Msgs 26, 
29, 35, 39, 40, 42. 



THE LANDINGS ON MAKIN 



81 




DUMMY COAST DEFENSE GUN made from a coconut log. 



forward against practically no opposition 
in its sector, the 3d Battalion on the right 
was making almost equally rapid progress 
against an area that it had been believed 
would be more vigorously defended. The 
special landing group of Detachment X 
had swung to the right after landing in 
amphtracks and established a defensive 
position on the southern flank. Company 
K moved almost straight eastward; Com- 
pany I fanned out in a triangular area be- 
tween the main highway and the ocean 
south of Company K's sector; and Com- 
pany L, assisted by a part of the special 
landing group, turned south to take 
Ukiangong Village and to clear the whole 
point beyond it. 22 

Contrary to expectation, no enemy fire 
came out of the huts of Ukiangong Village, 
and the native residents had all deserted. 



By 1040 Company L could report prac- 
tically all of Ukiangong Point secured 
without opposition. 23 What had been 
thought to be defense installations proved 
instead to be a stone-crushing plant, two 
large dummy guns, some square piles of 
coral rock, and a few bomb shelters. 24 
Sixty natives were discovered on Ukian- 
gong Point, but thus far no enemy had 
shown himself. 25 

Meanwhile, Company K was pressing 
its advance on toward and beyond Rita 
Lake. Finally, almost two hours after the 
landing, one unit of this company met the 
first Japanese to be encountered. Five of 

22 Marshall, Makin Notes, 3d BLT map, after p. F3. 

23 27th Inf Div G-3 Msg File, 20 Nov 43, Msg 30, 
and G-2 Msg File, Msg 55. 

24 JICPOA Bull 4-44, Part III, pp. 65, 73-77. 

25 27th Inf Div G-3 Msg File, 20 Nov 43, Msgs 42, 
43. 



82 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



the enemy were killed. At 1055 Company 
K reached the first beachhead line on the 
east shore of Rita Lake and shortly there- 
after was relieved by elements of the 1st 
Battalion and went into reserve. 26 

Thus within less than two and a half 
hours after the initial landing, the beach- 
head had been secured to a line 1,300 
yards inland. Ukiangong Point had been 
occupied and preparations were already 
under way for making that area suitable 
for the establishment of artillery positions 
from which the main attack eastward to 
the tank barrier could be supported. Part 
of Flink Point had been secured and noth- 
ing stood in the way of securing the whole 
of that peninsula, which was completed, in 
fact, by 1240. No opposition of any conse- 
quence had yet developed. Except for the 
initial difficulties in getting the troops 
ashore against natural rather than man- 
made obstacles, the landing had been a 
pushover. 

Tel low Beach 

Early in the morning of D Day, Ad- 
miral Turner had confirmed that William 
Hour for the landing on Yellow Beach 
would be 1030. According to the plan this 
beach, which lay between On Chong's 
Wharf and King's Wharf on the northern 
(lagoon) shore of Butaritari, would be as- 
saulted by the 2d Battalion Landing Team 
of the 165th Infantry reinforced by tanks 
of the 193d Tank Battalion. This force was 
to move the short distance across the island 
to the ocean shore, then branch to right 
and left (west and east). The group on the 
right would move toward the West Tank 
Barrier in conjunction with a simultane- 
ous push from the other side of that bar- 
rier by the 1st Battalion Landing Team. 
The group on the left would establish 



positions west of the East Tank Barrier 
and hold there pending the reduction of 
the West Tank Barrier and the capture of 
the entire "Citadel" area including the 
village of Butaritari. 

The troops charged with assaulting Yel- 
low Beach were carried aboard the trans- 
port Neville, the LSD Belle Grove, and the 
LST 179. Aboard Neville were the 2d Bat- 
talion of the 165th Regiment, commanded 
by Lt. Col. John F. McDonough, and the 
reconnaissance platoon that was scheduled 
for tiny Kotabu Island just north of Flink 
Point. Belle Grove carried the tanks of Com- 
pany A, 193d Tank Battalion, boated in 
LCM's. Embarked on LST 179 was De- 
tachment Z of the 105th Infantry loaded 
in the sixteen LVT's that would make up 
the initial assault wave. 

After receiving the word at 0800 that 
the Kotabu detail had taken that island 
without opposition, this naval task unit 
moved into its assigned transport area just 
west of the lagoon and commenced de- 
barking its landing craft. The LST pro- 
ceeded through the channel and into the 
lagoon before launching its amphtracks 
with the special landing groups aboard. As 
the tractors circled, the landing craft be- 
hind them slowly formed assault waves. 
By 0915 they were ready to move toward 
the beach. In the first wave were the six- 
teen amphibian tractors. Following it at 
an interval of about one minute came the 
second wave, eight LCM's carrying me- 
dium tanks, followed about two minutes 
later by the third wave, seven LCM's car- 
rying medium tanks. In the fourth wave, 
which came two minutes later, were two 
troop-carrying LCVP's accompanied by 
four LCM's with light tanks aboard. The 
next four waves were made up of LCVP's 



26 Ibid., Msg 43. 



THE LANDINGS ON MAKIN 



83 



carrying the bulk of the assault troops with 
one bulldozer embarked in the seventh 
wave. 27 

As the landing forces moved toward 
Yellow Beach the destroyers MacDonough 
and Phelps opened fire with their 5-inch 
guns, commencing at 10 5. 28 The sun by 
now was bright, and the lagoon calm. The 
beach, in flames, was covered by billowing 
smoke. 29 About 1,100 yards from the 
beach the LVT's discharged their rock- 
ets — six from each boat — laying down an 
area barrage along the beach's edge. In 
contrast to what had happened earlier in 
the morning during the approach to Red 
Beaches, the rockets worked. 30 At 1025, 
with the first wave still about 600 yards off 
the beach, the two destroyers ceased firing 
to allow a last-minute strafing run by the 
carrier planes. 31 As the planes neared the 
beach, the first waves of amphtracks 
slowed down for fear of coming under their 
fire. The later waves slowed down too, and 
kept their proper intervals, except for 
those carrying medium tanks, which 
bunched up slightly. These delays caused 
the landing schedule to be set back about 
ten minutes, but at least there was no pil- 
ing up of waves as there had been during 
the approach to Red Beach. 32 

As the troops renewed their progress to- 
ward shore, they came under enemy fire 
for the first time about 500 yards from the 
beach. This may have come from two steel 
hulks that lay sunk in the shallow water 
of the lagoon, or from On Chong's Wharf, 
or from a small green and white patrol 
boat moored to the wharf, or from the 
shore itself. Also, from King's Wharf on 
their left, the amphtracks were hit by bul- 
lets. Under this cross fire the men crouched 
low in their tractors as they made the last 
three hundred yard run into the beach. 
The first touchdown was at 1041. 33 



One of the amphtracks ran up the sea- 
plane ramp on King's Wharf. The men 
disembarked and worked their way inland 
by crawling along the western slope of the 
causeway, which masked them from en- 
emy fire. Unable to bring their weapons to 
bear, the Japanese quickly fled and the 
pier was taken by the attackers without 
further contest. 34 On the far right of the 
first landing wave one of the tractors de- 
veloped a defective steering device and 
landed too far to the west in the On 
Chong's Wharf area. All of the others 
landed properly on Yellow Beach and be- 
gan to move inland, swerving to the right 
or left before disembarking the men of the 
special landing group. Enemy shellfire 
struck two of these vehicles, and among 
the dismounting men five were reported 
killed and twelve wounded. 35 One lone 
tractor went completely out of control and 
drove straight across the island toward the 
ocean shore through the main Japanese 
defenses. It finally hung up in a shell crater 
and two of its crew were killed by enemy 
machine gun fire while the others escaped 
to take cover in the brush. 36 

The first mission of the two halves of the 
special landing group was to clear the en- 
emy from the two wharves and construct 



27 USS Neville Action Rpt, 5 Dec 43, pp. 1-3. 

28 USS Phelps Action Rpt, Seizure and Occupation 
of Makin Island, 5 Dec 43, p. 3. 

29 Marshall, Makin Notes, p. Gl. 

30 Ibid., p. F36. 

31 Fifth Amph Force Rpt, Capture of Gilbert 
Islands, Incl A, p. 16. 

32 V Phib Corps Galvanic Rpt, Incl B, G-3 Rpt, 
p. 3. 

33 Ibid., pp. 3-4; USS Neville Action Rpt, 5 Dec 43; 
Interv, Capt Bernard E. Ryan, CO Co E, 165th Inf, 
in S. L. A. Marshall, file of intervs (hereafter cited as 
Marshall Intervs), p. 38, OCMH. 

3 " Marshall, Makin Notes, p. F37. 

35 Interv, Capt William Ferns, CO Co M, 105th 
Inf, Marshall Intervs, p. 55. 

36 Marshall, Makin Notes, pp. F36-F41. 



THE LANDINGS ON MAKIN 



85 



defensive beach blocks from the base of 
each wharf to points about 150 yards in- 
land. King's Wharf fell without a contest, 
once the first troops had landed. On 
Chong's Wharf, although beaten to kin- 
dling wood, still offered some cover to the 
enemy and a force moved in to seize it at 
once. 

Deploying by squads, the right half of 
the special landing group swung forward 
against light opposition, pivoting on the 
base of the wharf. It continued to move 
westward in a line stretching about 150 
yards from the base of the wharf. Little ex- 
cept light rifle fire was encountered. Two 
machine gun positions were found at the 
base of the wharf, but they were manned 
by dead Japanese, evidently killed by 
naval fire. While a squad worked out 
along the pier, the inland end of the 
group's line came up against a series of 
dugouts or bombproof shelters. Grenades 
were thrown inside, killing some of the 
enemy immediately. Others were taken 
prisoner as they emerged and still others 
stayed within and temporarily avoided 
capture. Now and then the Americans re- 
ceived a random shot, but no one was in- 
jured. All the shelters inland from On 
Chong's Wharf were cleaned out before 
noon. About thirty-five prisoners, mostly 
Koreans, were taken and an estimated 
twenty of the occupants were killed. 37 

Only 100 yards behind the first wave of 
amphibian tractors came the LCM's with 
their medium tanks. They hit the reef 
lying from 150 to 200 yards offshore and 
could proceed no farther since there was 
only about 2.5 to 3 feet of water over the 
reef. Ramps were lowered and the medium 
tanks lumbered forward through the 
shallow water. All but two of the fifteen 
tanks reached the shore safely. These two 
foundered in shell holes in the reef. In one 



of them was Capt. Robert S. Brown, who 
commanded the medium tanks and who 
was thus left out of the action during the 
critical phase when his presence ashore 
was most needed. 38 The difficulties of the 
other foundered tank were later described 
by the sergeant in command: 

We . . . went forward about 25 yards and 
hit a shell hole. We got out of that and went 
about 15 yards more and hit another. The 
water was about 7 feet deep and our tank 
drowned out. The tank immediately filled 
with smoke after hitting the second shell hole. 
My driver said the tank was on fire. The crew 
dismounted right there with great speed 
through the right sponson door. I remained 
inside the tank. As soon as the crew got out 
of the tank they were machine gunned from 
the shore and with more speed they came 
back inside the tank. Something like an hour 
and a half later we were picked up by an 
alligator. 39 

Two of the mediums to land were hung 
up in taro pits, although one eventually 
freed itself and succeeded in getting into 
the action before being hung up again. 
The remaining eleven made their way to 
the ocean shore of the island, then split up 
and moved east and west against the two 
tank barriers. There was no effective co- 
ordination between tanks and infantry, the 
tanks operating independently. One ran 
over a shelter while the infantry stood by 
and killed about a dozen Japanese who 
came out. Another wiped out a machine 
gun nest at the base of the sandpit before 
proceeding across the island to join the 
other tanks going east. One tank moved 
directly into Butaritari Village but en- 
countered no opposition. Machine gun 
nests and pillboxes were found in fair 



37 Marshall, Makin Notes, p. F37. 

38 Marshall, Makin Notes, p. EE2; 193d Tk Bn Rpt 
of Makin Opn, p. 44. 

39 193d Tk Bn Rpt of Makin Opn, p. 56. 



86 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



YELLOW BEACH LANDING of the 2d Battalion, 165 th Infantry. 



abundance, but no difficulty was reported 
in wiping them out. No personnel casual- 
ties were reported by any of the tank 

crews. 40 

Behind the tanks in the fourth and fifth 
waves came the troops of the 2d Battalion, 
165th Infantry, boated in LCVP's. Like 
the tank-carrying craft ahead of them, 
these too grounded on the reef. 41 After a 
short hesitation the men debarked into 
knee-deep water and began their slow pas- 
sage into shore. The intensity of fire from 
the enemy increased. Radios, flame throw- 
ers, bazookas, and other equipment were 
soaked or lost. Yet, in spite of the fact that 
the troops were fairly closely bunched in 
the water, they escaped with few casual- 
ties. Most of the fire was low in the water 
and generally inaccurate. Only two were 
killed; none wounded. 42 



At the beach the men of Companies E 
and F, constituting the fourth and fifth 
waves, divided. Up to this time the land- 
ing troops had had little or no opportunity 
to locate definitely the almost incessant 
fire that was being poured upon them from 
the right flank as they approached the 
beaches. At the outset it was believed that 
at least a portion of this fire originated 
from the two battered and scuttled hulks 
that rested on the bottom just off the end 
of On Chong's Wharf. The first effort to 
eliminate this source of fire was made by 
an LCVP from Neville. Under command 
of Bosn. Joseph V. Kasper, this boat 



40 Ibid., pp. 41-59. 

41 Marshall, Makin Notes, p. G2. 

42 Intervs, Capt Bernard E. Ryan and Capt Francis 
P. Leonard, CO Co F, 2d Bn 165th Inf, Marshall 
Intervs, pp. 38, 48. 



88 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



mounted three of its guns on the starboard 
side and ran for the hulks at an angle per- 
mitting all guns to fire at once. Until one 
gun jammed and the cross fire from the 
beach compelled it to withdraw, the boat 
poured a rain of lead against the supposed 
enemy position. The fact that Boatswain 
Kasper was fatally wounded during the 
run added weight to the belief that these 
derelicts constituted a serious menace to 
the attacking troops. 43 

For the next two hours naval attention 
centered around the two wrecked ships, 
somewhat to the detriment of the troops 
already ashore. All landing operations 
were held up for over an hour, from 1 125 
to 1250, while carrier planes bombed and 
strafed the hulks. Five bombers missed by 
wide margins and when an attempt was 
made to skip-bomb the targets, the bombs 
merely bounced over the hulks. 44 Then at 
1219 the destroyer Dewey opened fire on 
the same targets and kept it up until 
125 7. 45 In such close quarters, firing on the 
hulks endangered American forces ap- 
proaching the beach. Some of the de- 
stroyer's shells hit the old ships and in- 
flicted observable damage, but others 
passed over the heads of the special land- 
ing groups and hit inland. As a result 
Capt. William Ferns, who commanded the 
special landing group, pulled his men back 



100 yards east onto On Ghong's Wharf 
and immediately requested the cessation 
of all naval and aerial bombardment 
Soon the bombardment ceased. 46 

Meanwhile, landings of later waves on 
Yellow Beach had been interrupted. Med- 
ical aid men, who were needed ashore, and 
Maj. Dennis D. Claire, who was supposed 
to command the forces moving to the left 
from Yellow Beach against the East Tank 
Barrier, were still afloat in landing craft 
waiting to go in. 47 In spite of the distrac- 
tion caused by the hulks, the assaulting 
troops had penetrated the Citadel area, 
the most strongly fortified on the island, 
lying between the two tank barriers. In 
spite of adverse hydrographic conditions 
and in spite of moderate fire from the 
shore, the first phase of the assault on 
Yellow Beach had been successfully com- 
pleted with only minor casualties. 

43 USS Neville Action Rpt, 5 Dec 43, pp. 7, 8; V 
Phib Corps Galvanic Rpt, Incl B, G->3 Rpt, p. 4. 

44 Marshall, Makin Notes, p. F30a; V Phib Corps 
Galvanic Rpt, Incl F, Rpt by Special Staff Officers, 
Sec. 1, Rpt by Air Officer, p. 4. 

45 Fifth Amph Force Rpt, Capture of Gilbert 
Islands, Incl A, p. 17. 

46 Interv, Capt Ferns, Marshall Intervs, p. 56. 
Captain Ferns states that there were two destroyers 

participating in this shelling. Admiral Turner's nar- 
rative of the action, however, indicates that only one, 
Dewey, was firing at this time. Fifth Amph Force Rpt, 
Capture of Gilbert Islands, Incl A, p. 17. 

47 Marshall, Makin Notes, p. F30a. 



CHAPTER VI 



Reduction of the West 
Tank Barrier 



Advance of the 2d Battalion 
to the Barrier 

Following the leading waves of amphib- 
ian tractors and medium tanks in to Yellow 
Beach of Butaritari came the assault com- 
panies of the 2d Battalion Landing Team, 
Company E on the left and Company F on 
the right. To Company E, commanded by 
Capt. Bernard E. Ryan, was assigned the 
task of establishing a line across the island 
west of the East Tank Barrier and holding 
there against possible attack from the east 
until the West Tank Barrier had been 
eliminated. This was intended to be pri- 
marily a defensive mission and the details 
of the company's actions on D Day will be 
treated later. 1 Company F, under com- 
mand of Capt. Francis P. Leonard, with 
elements of Company G later attached, 
had the main offensive mission of moving 
against the West Tank Barrier in co-ordi- 
nation with the 1st Battalion Landing 
Team, which was supposed to be ap- 
proaching the same objective simultane- 
ously from the opposite direction. {See 
Map III.) 

The preliminary mission of Company 
F was for its two assault platoons, the 2d 
on the left and the 1st on the right, to 
move directly across, the atoll. This mission 
completed, the 1st and 3d Platoons were 



to swing right, with the 1st on the left 
flank, and head westward for the West 
Tank Barrier. The 2d Platoon was to 
revert to company reserve and follow the 
center of the line some fifty yards behind. 
Two light machine guns were stationed be- 
tween the assault platoons, and the 60-mm. 
mortars remained in the vicinity of Yellow 
Beach to support the attack from that 
area. 2 To the rear of Company F, Com- 
pany G (minus 2d Platoon), commanded 
by Capt. Paul J. Chasmar, was to land 
and to act as reserve force for Captain 
Leonard's company as it moved to the 
south and west. 3 

The main enemy installations of the 
West Tank Barrier were first encountered 
by Company F rather than by the right 
half of the special landing group of the 
105th Infantry, which had been landed in 
amphibian tractors. That group had be- 
come involved almost immediately in 
cleaning up the lower end of On Chong's 
Wharf and in demolishing various shelters 
between the wharf and the hi jhway in the 
area through which they were to deploy 
for the move westward. 

1 See below, pp. 17-22. 

2 Interv, Capt Leonard, Marshall Intervs, p. 48. 
Note: Because of poor visibility the mortars were not 
used at any time to support Company F's attack 
against the West Tank Barrier. 

3 Interv, Capt Chasmar, Marshall Intervs, p. 62. 



90 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



As soon as the two assault platoons of 
Company F waded ashore and finished 
their reorganization at the beach, they 
plunged inland. Only scattered rifle fire 
greeted them during this movement. The 
only established enemy positions found by 
the assault troops during the first two 
hours in this area were two machine gun 
emplacements and seven wholly or partly 
demolished buildings located at the base 
of On Chong's Wharf and abandoned by 
the enemy. 

Company F's initial move from the 
beach was, as planned, almost due south. 
The 1st and 2d Platoons, with the two 
light machine guns of Company H, the 
heavy weapons company, carried along 
between them, started out for the ocean 
shore. It took them until shortly after noon 
to reach the opposite side of the island. 
They struggled through the debris and over 
the marshy ground beyond the east-west 
highway without coming to grips with the 
unseen and scattered Japanese riflemen. 
Some of the defenders withdrew deeper 
into the woods, but some remained behind 
in concealment to keep up a nerve-wrack- 
ing fire on the American infantrymen as 
they advanced across the island. Company 
F lost one man killed and one wounded 
from this harassment and managed to 
eliminate four Japanese and four Korean 
laborers. 4 Although a number of shelters 
were encountered, no fire was received 
from them. 

The only serious handicap to the troops 
as they moved southward was the terrain 
and vegetation and a breakdown of com- 
munications between the 1st and 2d Pla- 
toons of Company F. Their radios had be- 
come waterlogged and messenger service 
between the platoons was inadequate. The 
result was a gap between the two assault 
platoons. To fill this growing hole in the 



line, Company F's 3d Platoon was brought 
forward from reserve and committed. This 
meant moving Company G (less 2d Pla- 
toon) closer to the advance where it could 
be used if further strength was needed. 
However, Company G's 3d Platoon had 
already been ordered to take a light ma- 
chine gun squad and relieve the special 
landing group at the base of On Chong's 
Wharf. This relief started at 1 145, and the 
diversion of 3d Platoon, Company G, from 
the main line of advance necessitated call- 
ing on some elements of Company H as 
reinforcement for Company G in its role 
as reserve. 5 These reserve troops now 
moved into the center of the island and 
combed the area behind the advancing 
line. 

The mopping-up operations were de- 
scribed in detail by 1st Sgt. Pasquale J. 
Fusco: 

Smoking out the snipers that were in the 
trees was the worst part of it. We could not 
spot them even with glasses and it made our 
advance very slow. When we moved forward, 
it was a skirmish line, with each man being 
covered as he rushed from cover to cover. 
That meant that every man spent a large 
part of his time on the ground. While at 
prone, we carefully studied the trees and the 
ground. If one of our men began to fire 
rapidly into a tree or ground location, we 
knew that he had spotted a sniper, and those 
who could see the tree took up the fire. When 
we saw no enemy, we fired occasional shots 
into trees that looked likely. 6 

As the advance elements of Company F 
reached the ocean shore they found no live 
installations. The center platoon did come 
upon two unoccupied machine gun em- 
placements with a barbed-wire barricade 



4 Marshall, Makin Notes, p. F26. 

5 Intervs, Capt Leonard and Capt Chasmar, 
Marshall Intervs, pp. 48-50, 62-63. 

6 Quoted in Marshall, Makin Notes, p. F30. 



REDUCTION OF THE WEST TANK BARRIER 



91 



and a rifle trench — all abandoned by the 
enemy. Though these positions had been 
primarily designed to resist a landing from 
the south and to control the road along the 
ocean shore, they could have been used 
upon troops advancing from the lagoon. 
Luckily they were not. Company F's first 
mission was accomplished with amazing 
ease. 7 

On arrival at the ocean Company F 
immediately began to reorganize its lines, 
a movement completed by about 1230. 
The platoon of Company G that had re- 
lieved the special landing group near On 
Chong's Wharf had been forced to with- 
draw during the time the destroyer Dewey 
shelled the hulks, but it now recovered the 
ground it had given up and took position 
straddling the island highway on the right 
flank of Company F. 

Meanwhile, Colonel McDonough, 2d 
Battalion commander, had accompanied 
Company F in its advance toward the 
southern shore. Shortly before its reorgan- 
ization, he left the line and returned to 
Yellow Beach in an effort to bring up the 
medium tanks to support the coming ad- 
vance toward the West Tank Barrier. He 
ordered Capt. Wayne C. Sikes, a tank offi- 
cer, to take charge of the tanks in the 
center of the line while Lt. Col. Harmon L. 
Edmondson, commander of the 1 93d Tank 
Battalion, proceeded at once to the south 
shore with two of the mediums. By 1230, 
five more had crossed the island and were 
ready to assist on the left flank of Company 
F's line. 8 

With these five tanks in support, Com- 
pany F immediately jumped off for the 
main attack to the westward. The tank- 
trap clearing still lay some 300 to 400 yards 
away. As the troops approached it they 
found a number of underground shelters 
that yielded both Japanese soldiers and 



labor troops. Some of the labor troops were 
armed with knives and at least one carried 
a rifle. After the tanks had moved up and 
put heavy fire against the shelters, infan- 
trymen followed with TNT pole charges, 
which were shoved into the openings of 
shelters. Flame throwers, which would 
have been the ideal weapon against such 
emplacements, had been doused during 
the landing and were of no use. During 
this first engagement Company F lost 
eight killed and six wounded. By that time 
it had come within range of fire from en- 
trenchments running along the West Tank 
Barrier. Later, five machine gun nests but- 
tressing the trench defenses in this area 
were discovered. For two hours no advance 
was made on the right. Meanwhile, on the 
left, the 1st Platoon, which was supported 
by Colonel Edmondson's five tanks, 
reached the barrier by 1330. 9 

On the right half of the line advancing 
westward, the 3d Platoon of Company F 
found the going tougher, partly because it 
had only three tanks to support it. Directly 
south of On Chong's Wharf and about half 
way across the island was a large enemy 
air raid shelter in the path of the advance. 
It was about thirty feet long with blast- 
proof entrances on either end. Hand gre- 
nades tossed into the shelter had been 
tossed out again. One medium tank had 
come up and shelled it with 75-mm. with 
no apparent success. Finally the same tank, 
accompanied by two infantrymen and four 
engineers, succeeded in reducing it. The 
tank, covering the dismounted personnel, 



7 Lt Col William R. Durand to G-3 USAFICPA, 
8 Dec 43, Rpt on Makin Island Expedition, p. 4; 
Interv, Capt Chasmar, Marshall Intervs, pp. 62-63. 

8 Baxter, Armored Force Action on Makin, pp. 13- 
14; Marshall, Makin Notes, pp. EE2-EE6; Interv, 
Capt Leonard, Marshall Intervs, pp. 48-50. 

" Interv, Capt Leonard, Marshall Intervs, pp. 48- 
50; Baxter, Armored Force Action on Makin, p. 14. 



REDUCTION OF THE WEST TANK BARRIER 



93 



moved slowly in from the left flank. Two 
BAR 10 men, one on the flank of the tank 
and one in the rear of it, moved with it 
until they got to ground where they could 
cover the baffle entrance. The four engi- 
neers, one of whom was 1st Lt. Thomas B. 
Palliser, a platoon commander of Com- 
pany C, 102d Engineers, advanced to the 
rear of the tank and then between the two 
BAR men. Palliser himself took the lead. 
Behind him came the platoon sergeant. 
Both were covered by two engineer rifle- 
men. At first they tried to use a flame 
thrower, but as in all other efforts to use this 
weapon on Makin, the attempt failed be- 
cause of the soaking the equipment had 
received during the landing. This failing, a 
TNT pole charge was employed. The 
platoon leader placed the charge between 
the outside of the baffle entrance and the 
interior wall of the shelter. A fifteen-second 
fuze gave the detail ample time to clear 
back to cover. The resulting explosion did 
not collapse the shelter, but it killed all the 
personnel inside — twelve Japanese. 11 

In spite of this successful engagement in 
the center of the line, the men on the right 
remained pinned down by fire from rifle 
pits fringing on the eastern edge of the bar- 
rier. At this juncture Colonel McDonough 
sent in the 3d Platoon of Company G with 
orders to take three medium tanks and 
move around the Japanese left (north) 
flank. 12 On each side of the highway, along 
which the center of this platoon advanced, 
were three machine gun positions. Two 
that faced the lagoon between road and 
beach were connected by a trench with a 
small shelter. 13 To knock out these two em- 
placements, two eight- man squads crawled 
forward to within about fifteen yards of 
them and then took stations according to 
available cover. The BAR men and their 
assistants covered the main entrances. Two 



men from each squad armed with gre- 
nades made ready on either side of the en- 
trances. They rushed the pits and heaved 
grenades in them; then, without stopping, 
dashed to the other side and blasted the 
entrances with several more grenades. 
Once the grenades exploded, the BAR 
men and assistants followed up with bayo- 
nets. Two other men then inspected the 
pits covered by the rest of the squad. Not a 
man was lost in this action, and the enemy 
positions were silenced. 14 

This left one remaining machine gun 
position in the area assigned to the 3d Pla- 
toon of Company G. Efforts on the part of 
infantrymen to direct their supporting 
tanks to attack it failed. No radio commu- 
nications existed between tanks and infan- 
try and an attempt on the part of one lieu- 
tenant to direct one tank against this target 
by pounding his rifle butt on the top of the 
tank failed to elicit any response from the 
crew inside. As the three tanks moved on 
past the emplacement without attacking 
it, S. Sgt. Michael Thompson, command- 
ing Company G's 3d Platoon, undertook 
to rush the position singlehanded. His 
action can best be described in his own 
words: 

I worked my way slowly forward, hugging 
the ground. I could see the muzzle of the gun, 
projecting beyond the pit, but it did not seem 
to be manned. ... I rushed the pit, jumped 
in and seized the machine gun to swing it 
around and face it down the connecting 
trench. ... I dropped the machine gun 
. . . and grabbed my rifle. Three Japs in the 
trench, a short distance from me, were begin- 
ning to stir. They looked as if they had been 
stunned by an explosion. So I shot them. Then 



10 Browning automatic rifle. 

11 Marshall, Makin Notes, p. EE 14a. 

12 Interv, Capt Leonard, Marshall Intervs, pp. 
48-50. 

13 JICPOA Bull 4-44, map facing p. 1. 

14 Marshall, Makin Notes, p. F30. 



94 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



I walked down the trench and came to an 
object, well covered with palm leaves. I pulled 
the leaves back and discovered a much-alive 
Jap soldier. So I shot him also. Then the rest 
of the platoon came up and took over. 15 

The three tanks that had left this em- 
placement undisturbed continued on 
across the tank barrier without serious op- 
position. About 1600 they met some light 
tanks attached to the 1st Battalion that 
had come along the main highway from 
the western beaches. Thus, a preliminary 
junction of the two attacking forces on the 
northern end of the line was achieved. 16 
Meanwhile, at the south end of the line an 
advance patrol from Company B had suc- 
ceeded in contacting Company F at about 
1500. 17 In the center resistance continued 
until about 1650, by which time most of 
the enemy fire had been eliminated by the 
guns of the four medium tanks leading the 
assault in that area. By 1655 firm contact 
was established on the southern end of the 
line between Companies B and F and an 
hour later the troops of the 1st and 2d Bat- 
talions had established contact all along 
the West Tank Barrier. 18 

Advance of the 1st Battalion 

While the 2d Battalion was moving 
across the island from Yellow Beach and 
gradually wiping out resistance east of the 
West Tank Barrier, Colonel Kelley's 1st 
Battalion was moving toward the same ob- 
jective from the opposite direction. On the 
right (south) was Company B, commanded 
by Capt. Henry Berger; on the left Com- 
pany C with Capt. Charles E. Coates, Jr., 
commanding. Company A, commanded 
by Capt. Lawrence J. O'Brien, after secur- 
ing Flink Point went into reserve. From the 
heavy weapons company a machine gun 
platoon was assigned to each of the two 



companies in attack. The mortar platoon 
was assigned to operate as a separate entity 
in support of the whole battalion, although 
actually mortars were not used by the bat- 
talion during the first day's operation be- 
cause of the thin deployment of the enemy 
and because of the narrow gap between 
troops of the 1st and 2d Battalions that 
were approaching each other from oppo- 
site directions. 19 

About 1130 Colonel Kelley set up his 
command post on the beachhead line on 
the west edge of Rita Lake and began per- 
sonally to direct the advance westward. 20 
The first objective was the Second Phase 
Line, which ran through the east end of 
Joan Lake about 1,200 yards ahead. Be- 
tween these two lines the enemy was 
afforded excellent opportunities to set up 
positions easily covering the firm ground. 
The defenders had taken advantage of the 
first of these opportunities. In the area 
around Jill Lake the Japanese had estab- 
lished two machine gun positions and an 
antitank gun emplacement commanding 
the main east-west highway, while fire 
trenches and another machine gun nest 
covered the ocean shore and the area im- 
mediately to the north of it. However, these 
were unmanned and no fortifications were 
to be found at the Second Phase Line. 21 



15 Ibid., pp. F33-F34. 

16 Baxter, Armored Force Action on Makin, p. 13. 

17 Interv, Capt Henry Berger, Marshall Intervs, pp. 
25-26; 1st Bn 165th Inf Regt Combined Jnl, 20 Nov 
43, Msg 56; 165th Inf Regt Combined Jnl, 20 Nov 43, 
Msg 65. 

lfi Intervs, Col McDonough and Capt Leonard, 
Marshall Intervs, pp. 48-50, 59-60; Msgs cited n. 17; 
27th Inf Div G-3 Msg File, 20 Nov 43, Msg 100. 

19 Intervs, Capt Berger, Capt Coates, Capt O'Brien, 
and Capt Paul E. Ryan, CO Co D, Marshall Intervs, 
pp. 25-26, 24, 22-23, 19. 

20 1st Bn 165th Inf Regt Combined Jnl, 20 Nov 43, 
Msg 24. 

21 JICPOA Bull 4-44, I, p. 28; Interv, Capt Berger, 
Marshall Intervs, pp. 25-26. 



REDUCTION OF THE WEST TANK BARRIER 



95 




M3 LIGHT TANK, bogged down in a shell crater, holds up the advance on the narrow cause- 
way north of Jill lake. 



Only occasional rifle fire met the ad- 
vancing American troops. Most of this 
came from lone riflemen, or snipers, sta- 
tioned in trees or in the underbrush. Un- 
doubtedly the prevalence of tree snipers on 
Makin was sometimes exaggerated by the 
American troops that fought there, with 
the result that there was much promiscu- 
ous and sometimes dangerous strafing of 
tree tops. Nevertheless, in this particular 
area the Japanese had prepared among the 
fronds at the tops of certain trees places 
where they cached rifles and left gourds of 
water and sake. To mark such trees they 
tied to them girdles of fronds about four 
feet above the ground so that a rifleman 
could run to a tree, snatch off the marker, 
climb up by notches cut in the trunk and 
wait for likely targets. 22 



The light tanks had not come forward 
beyond Jill Lake because on the highway, 
between that pond and another just north 
of it, a large crater made by a naval shell 
had engulfed the leading tank of the col- 
umn causing a roadblock. The highway at 
that point was a causeway off of which 
other tanks could not move to bypass the 
first. Hence, the lead tank had to be towed 
off and the shell hole filled before the col- 
umn could proceed. 23 

By about 1400 the troops had reached 
the Second Phase Line just east of Joan 
Lake. In the advance from Jill Lake only 



22 Interv, Capt Berger, Marshall Intervs, pp. 25-26; 
Marshall, Makin Notes, p. G4. 

23 V Phib Corps Galvanic Rpt, Incl F, Rpt by 
Special Staff Officers, Sec. 3, Rpt of Engineer Officer, 
p. 3; 193d TkBn Rpt of Makin Opn, p. 68. 



96 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



two Japanese were reported killed. About 
the same time, the light tank mired on the 
causeway was extricated, and the entire 
tank platoon commenced moving to the 
front to support the infantry. Meanwhile, 
no direct radio communication had been 
established with the 2d Battalion. Frantic 
radio messages from Colonel Kelley to the 
supporting planes and to regimental and 
division command posts failed to elicit any 
very clear information as to the position of 
the 2d Battalion, which was advancing to- 
ward his own troops. At the same time fire 
from friendly troops had pinned down his 
own front lines. 24 In spite of these difficul- 
ties, division headquarters dispatched the 
message, "Continue your attack vigorously 
to effect a junction with McDonough with- 
out delay." The advance was resumed. 25 
Company B on the right made the most 
rapid progress. Fire from the east side of 
the West Tank Barrier, then under attack 
by the 2d Battalion, held them up for a 
while, but an advance patrol under 1st Lt. 
Patrick J. Raleigh was sent forward and 
about 1500 succeeded at last in establish- 
ing contact with Company F. 26 On the left, 
Company C ran into more difficulty when 
it encountered the only determined resist- 
ance between Red Beach and the West 
Tank Barrier. About 150 yards west of the 
barrier and to the south of the east-west 
road, the enemy had emplaced a Lewis 
machine gun concealed by a natural dip in 
the terrain and protected by riflemen con- 
cealed in and among surrounding trees. 
The gun's fire cut obliquely across the 
main highway, between two sharp bends, 
and stopped the 1st Platoon, Company C, 
in a small clearing south of the highway. 27 
North of this emplacement, on the lagoon 
side of the highway, was a large palm tree 
that had around its base a square of heavy 
coconut logs and raised earth. The platoon 



leader, 2d Lt. Daniel T. Nunnery, took 
cover at the base of this tree and proceeded 
to study the surrounding area. He was 
shortly joined by Captain Coates, Com- 
pany C's commander. 

In a moment, Colonel Kelley, the 1st 
Battalion commander, moved to recon- 
noiter the position indicated by Lieutenant 
Nunnery. In an effort to keep Company C 
moving to the tank trap and join with the 
2d Battalion, he sought out Captain 
Coates. On the way, he met Col. Gardiner 
J. Conroy who was ordering a tank up to 
fire into the enemy position. Colonel Kel- 
ley advised that his troops would be endan- 
gered by such fire and informed the regi- 
mental commander that he would have 
Captain Coates continue the advance, 
bypassing the pocket, and leave his support 
platoon to reduce it. 

Colonel Kelley moved out to the trees to 
instruct Captain Coates, who promptly 
shouted "get down." Just in time Colonel 
Kelley threw himself to the ground, avoid- 
ing an enemy machine gun burst. When 
Captain Coates signaled to his left platoon, 
that unit moved over to the lagoon, and 
under the cover of a three-to-four-foot 
bank proceeded east and around the clear- 
ing toward the tank barrier. 

In the meantime Lieutenant Nunnery, 
still under the palm tree, was shot through 
the head and killed. Between his body and 
the machine gun lay an American rifle- 
man, shot through the arm. Chaplain 
Joseph A. Meany, who had come up with 
Colonel Conroy a few minutes before, 
rushed out to the wounded man and 
dropped down beside him. He too was 

24 IstBn 165th Inf Regt Combined J nl, 20 Nov 43, 
Msgs 28,31, 34,39,40,41. 

25 Ibid., Msg 43; 27th Inf Div G-3 Msg File, 20 Nov 
43, Msgs 56, 62. 

26 Interv, Capt Berger, Marshall Intervs, pp. 25-26. 

27 Interv, Capt Coates, Marshall Intervs, p. 28. 



REDUCTION OF THE WEST TANK BARRIER 



97 



shot, although his life was saved by a small 
medal and identification disk that de- 
flected one of the bullets. Another soldier 
dashed out to aid the chaplain and dropped 
dead at his feet. The whole area was now 
alive with the cracking of rifles and the 
rattle of the machine gun. 

From the lagoon side now appeared a 
lone figure walking into the center of the 
scene. It was Colonel Conroy, erect, evi- 
dently believing that only a few Japanese 
riflemen were holding up the company. 
Colonel Kelley shouted to him to get down. 
He hesitated, and as he did a rifle cracked 
and the regimental commander went down 
with a bullet between his eyes. The time 
was then 1455. 28 

Command of the regiment now passed 
to Colonel Kelley, while that of the 1st 
Battalion was assumed by its executive 
officer, Maj. James H. Mahoney. 29 The 
light tanks that had been brought forward 
by Colonel Conroy retired on Colonel Kel- 
ley's order without firing a shot because of 
the danger of their hitting friendly troops. 
For the same reason mortar and machine 
gun fire had to be withheld. 

1st Lt. Warren T. Lindquist, leader of 
the Intelligence and Reconnaissance Pla- 
toon was ordered to await the reduction of 
the position by the support platoon of 
Company C, or under cover of darkness 
(whichever occurred first) to crawl out and 
bring Chaplain Meany in. The latter 
proved to be the solution, and as darkness 
fell Lieutenant Lindquist and several of his 
men crawled out, found the chaplain, who 
had administered first aid to himself, and 
carried him back to the 1st Battalion aid 
station. 30 

Meanwhile, Company C had advanced 
to the edge of the West Tank Barrier clear- 
ing. Company A, which had been in re- 
serve throughout the first phase of attack, 



was ordered to advance from its position 
near Rita Lake and mop up in the rear of 
Company B. By the time it had come up to 
Company B, the latter unit had estab- 
lished contact with Company F on the op- 
posite side of the barrier. By 1755, after 
Company F had finally destroyed the last 
of the enemy in the center of its line, con- 
tact between the two battalions extended 
the length of the barrier. 31 

The first portion of the plan for occupy- 
ing Butaritari Island was accomplished, 
therefore, late on D Day. In the entire 
zone from the western beaches to the cen- 
ter of the Citadel area, enemy resistance 
had been overcome except for one small 
wedge-shaped pocket northwest of the 
West Tank Barrier clearing. On orders 
from division headquarters the attack was 
halted, and positions for the night were 
selected and secured. 32 

Holding Action on the East 

While Company F, with elements of 
Company G attached, was moving across 
the island and toward the West Tank Bar- 



28 This account of the incidents leading up to the 
death of Colonel Conroy was derived from the follow- 
ing sources: Interv, Capt Coates, Marshall Intervs, p. 
24; Marshall, Makin Notes, pp. F18-F19; Ltr, Col 
Gerard W. Kelley to Maj Gen Harry J. Malony, 31 
Jan 49, OCMH; 27th Inf Div G-3 Msg File, 20 Nov 
43, Msg 89. 

Colonel Conroy's body was buried in Gate of 
Heaven Cemetery on Makin Island on 21 November 
1943, L. W. Yarwood conducting burial services. 
(Sworn affidavit of L. W. Yarwood, 14 Sep 50, filed 
in OCMH.) General Holland Smith's report that 
Colonel Conroy's body was still lying where it had 
fallen two days after his death is erroneous. Smith, 
Coral and Brass , p. 126.) 

251 27th Inf Div G-3 Msg File, 20 Nov 43, Msgs 89- 
91. 

30 Ltr, Col Kelley to Gen Malony, 31 Jan 49. 

31 27th Inf Div G-3 Msg File, 20 Nov 43, Msgs 98, 
100. 

32 Ibid., Msgs 87, 88. 



98 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



rier, a second force of the 2d Battalion 
moved to the left to take up a holding 
position. This left-wing force consisted of 
Company E, half of Detachment Z of the 
105th Infantry aboard LVT's, and before 
the end of the day a platoon of light tanks. 
Company H, the heavy weapons com- 
pany, was in reserve on the beach. 

The prescribed plan was for the 1st Pla- 
toon of Company E to push due south 
across the island to the ocean shore on the 
left flank of Company F. It was then to 
turn left and act as company reserve be- 
hind the 2d Platoon. The mission of this 
latter unit was to advance inland from the 
beach to a point roughly fifty yards behind 
the main east-west highway and then to 
swing left and extend its line to the ocean 
shore. The 2d Platoon would then form 
the right flank of a line, running from the 
lagoon to the ocean, which was intended 
to seal off the eastern portion of the island. 
One reinforced squad of the 3d Platoon 
was to mop up the sandspit near King's 
Wharf, while the main body of this platoon 
pivoted to the left and tied in with the 2d 
Platoon. The extreme left flank of the new 
line would be manned by the left half of 
the special landing group, Detachment Z. 
It was expected that by nightfall this com- 
posite force would reach a line along a dirt 
road that crossed the island from the foot 
of King's Wharf, an advance of about 500 
yards from the point of pivot on Yellow 
Beach. During most of D Day these ma- 
neuvers would be commanded by the 
Company E commander, Captain Ryan, 
since the battalion commander, Colonel 
McDonough, was personally supervising 
the drive on the West Tank Barrier. Colo- 
nel McDonough 's executive officer, Major 
Claire, had been detained in his small boat 
off the reef while the hulks were being 
brought under fire. 33 



As Captain Ryan's 1st Platoon moved 
south across the island it met only desul- 
tory resistance — chiefly random fire from 
lone riflemen in trees and bushes. On its 
left flank, near the main island highway, 
the platoon encountered two fortified posi- 
tions, one a machine gun and the other an 
antitank emplacement containing a 37- 
mm. gun commanding the highway. The 
first had been abandoned and the second, 
with its cover still on, had been disabled by 
preliminary bombardment. 

Near the ocean shore road the troops 
discovered storage buildings for bombs 
and food, but these too were undefended. 
Just beyond the road was a machine gun 
emplacement that had been designed 
principally to cover the ocean approach 
and was flanked by rifle pits and double- 
apron barbed wire. The gun was turned 
against the Americans approaching from 
the north but was shortly put out of action 
by the 75-mm. gun of a medium tank. Ten 
Japanese were killed. Altogether the 1st 
Platoon suffered only three killed and one 
wounded during its trek across the island. 34 

The 2d Platoon of Company E met even 
lighter opposition in an area having fewer 
enemy installations. It moved up quickly 
to take its position on the right flank of the 
eastern line across the island. The platoon 
met sniper resistance but continued to 
move forward slowly to the line, only being 
held up for a short while until the 3d Pla- 
toon on its left was able to move forward. 
Three men were wounded during this 
movement. 

Mopping up the sandspit proved to be 
an easy job for the reinforced squad of the 



33 Interv, Capt Bernard E. Ryan, Marshall Intervs, 
pp. 38-41; Marshall, Makin Notes, pp. F22-F24. 

34 Interv, Capt Ryan, Marshall Intervs, pp. 38-41; 
193d Tk Bn Rpt of Makin Opn, p. 53; JICPOA Bull 
4-44, map facing p. 3. 



REDUCTION OF THE WEST TANK BARRIER 



99 



3d Platoon. All resistance in that area had 
previously been eliminated either by pre- 
liminary aerial and naval bombardment 
or by the amphibian tractors that had 
landed part of Detachment Z on the left 
flank of the first wave. The squad, its mis- 
sion completed, waited for the left wing of 
the Company E line to move along the 
beach as far as the base of the sandspit. 35 

Just southwest of King's Wharf, the 
main body of the 3d Platoon, Company E, 
was stopped before a group of positions, 
strongly constructed and cleverly dis- 
guised, lying directly opposite the sandspit 
south of the island's main highway. Essen- 
tially, this emplacement consisted of a 
well-reinforced pit, three feet deep, imme- 
diately off the road and a tunnel that ran 
some thirty-five yards south connecting 
the pit to a concrete pillbox. The Amer- 
ican troops approached the tunnel's west 
side, which was "blind," that is, had no 
apertures. It was merely a part of a dirt 
bank that rose about eight feet from the 
taro patch before it. The top of the tunnel 
was no different in appearance from the 
surrounding terrain, except that it con- 
tained small concealed burrow holes large 
enough to permit a man to squirm out. 
Running across the top was a shallow 
trench about fifteen yards long. The east 
wall contained a number of oblong aper- 
tures wide enough to permit ingress and 
egress. The entire structure was heavily 
constructed and may have served as an air 
raid shelter as well as an entrenchment. 36 

In front of this position the 3d Platoon 
was stopped for about four hours. As the 
troops came up to the position, the Japa- 
nese held their fire and the nature of the 
emplacement was not at first discerned. 
Three men climbed the west wall and took 
positions in the kneeling trench, appar- 
ently not realizing that there were Japa- 



nese beneath them and not noticing the 
burrow holes. Meanwhile, the machine 
gun on the right flank of the tunnel had 
pinned down the body of the platoon, thus 
leaving the men on top unsupported. Sud- 
denly from the apertures on the east, or far 
side of the tunnel, a group of Japanese 
emerged and charged the men on top with 
bayonets. One of the Americans was killed 
and another wounded before the pla- 
toon's fire cut the Japanese down. More 
came out. The wounded man was bay- 
oneted to death and the third man was 
bayoneted but later escaped. Other skir- 
mishers who had not approached the tun- 
nel embankment withdrew immediately. 

Next, bazookas and rifle grenades were 
brought to bear against the tunnel position 
but with small success. Enemy fire was 
now holding back the entire line. Finally 
the battery of 105-mm.'s, which had by 
now come ashore and set up positions on 
Ukiangong Point, was requested to fire 
into the area. A total of five missions was 
fired, chiefly to interdict reinforcements 
that might be brought to the tunnel from 
the woods beyond King's Wharf. Com- 
pany E's 60-mm. mortars also laid down 
a barrage for the same purpose. 37 

Upon completion of the artillery fire, 
Captain Ryan sent a detail of seven men 
under S. Sgt. Hoyl Mersereau to work 
around to the rear, east of the position. 
Their mission was to take the apertures 
under fire and keep any more enemy raid- 
ing parties from emerging. Mersereau and 
his men crawled and crept in a wide circle, 
eventually reaching a point about forty 
yards away from the reverse slope of the 



!r> Interv, Capt Ryan, Marshall Intervs, pp. 38-41. 

36 Ibid., pp. 44-45; Marshall, Makin Notes, p. F31. 

37 Marshall, Makin Notes, pp. F31-F32, EE10; 
Interv, Capt Ryan, Marshall Intervs, pp. 38-41; 
105th FA Bn Makin Rpt, 8 Dec 43, p. 6. 



100 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



mound. Here, taking shelter behind a low 
bank, they began firing into the openings. 
With this protection, Company E now 
worked men forward on the west side of the 
tunnel. An attempt to use flame throwers 
at this juncture failed since these weapons 
were still out of commission. The company 
commander then turned to the engineers, 
who brought up charges of TNT and 
dropped them into the machine gun posi- 
tions at either end of the tunnel. After 
these were detonated, light tanks were 
brought up to fire their 37-mm. shells into 
the entrances. At last the enemy, driven to 
desperation, began to emerge from the 
apertures with bayonets fixed, only to be 
cut down by rifle fire from Mersereau's 
detail. About 1600, some four hours after 
the mound was first encountered, it was 
possible to leave it and move forward. Eight 
Americans had been killed or wounded in 
the action. A small detail was left to mop 
up as Ryan's company moved on. 38 

Another fifty yards eastward the ad- 
vance was again halted, this time by en- 
emy fire coming from a log emplacement 
and a trench about five feet deep and 
thirty-five yards in length. The terrain in 
the area was too thickly wooded to set up 
all-night positions, so, under orders re- 
ceived at 1720, Company E withdrew to 
an area south of the sandspit's western 
edge near the center of the island. As it 
was digging in for the night, a platoon of 
Company G appeared to reinforce it. 39 

First Day: The Summing Up 

Thus by the end of the first day of fight- 
ing a firm foothold had been established 
on Butaritari. The 2d Battalion occupied 
an area between the West Tank Barrier 
and a line extending from the base of 
King's Wharf across the island to the 



ocean shore. The 1st Battalion was in con- 
tact with the 2d all along the West Tank 
Barrier, although a small wedgelike pocket 
northwest of the barrier, which was con- 
tained by Company C, remained to be 
cleaned out. 40 

Artillery was in position on Ukiangong 
Point and had already fired missions in 
support of the 2d Battalion on the eastern 
front. About 1 100, the 105th Field Artil- 
lery had commenced landing immediately 
behind the combat elements of the infan- 
try. All three batteries (less B Battery's 
105-mm. howitzers) were in position by 
1430. 41 

However, no artillery support was called 
for or delivered in the main battle zone. 
The scheme of maneuver did not permit 
firing in support of the 1st and 3d Battal- 
ions after the landing of the 2d Battalion 
on Yellow Beach. With the two forces mov- 
ing toward each other, the gap between 
them was too narrow to permit safe deliv- 
ery of supporting fire. 42 

American casualties on the first day 
were low. The total reported for 20 No- 
vember was twenty-five killed and sixty- 
two wounded seriously enough to require 
evacuation. 43 Estimates as to Japanese 
casualties are impossible to arrive at with 
any degree of accuracy. As of 2100 on D 
Day, division intelligence estimated that 
fifty Japanese had been killed. But next 
morning, the 2d Battalion reported a total 
of 200 Japanese dead to have been dis- 
covered in the Citadel area alone as of 

38 Marshall, Makin Notes, p. F32; Interv, Capt 
Ryan, Marshall Intervs, pp. 38-41. 

39 27th Inf Div G-3 Msg File, 20 Nov 43, Msg 88. 

40 V Phib Corps Galvanic Rpt, Incl B, G-3 Rpt, p. 
5, and overlay attached. 

41 B Battery carried in addition to its organic 105's 
four 75-mm. pack howitzers. 

42 105th FA Bn Makin Rpt, 8 Dec 43. 

43 USAFICPA Participation Rpt Galvanic, Annex 
10, Table IV. 



REDUCTION OF THE WEST TANK BARRIER 



101 



0700. In addition, the battalion reported 
the capture of forty-one prisoners, mostly 
labor troops. 44 

One thing was clear. A far smaller num- 
ber of enemy had been engaged by the at- 
tacking infantry and tanks than had been 
anticipated. From Yellow Beach south to 
the ocean and west to Red Beaches, only a 
few fortifications and entrenchments had 
been located and many of these were 
abandoned. The supposition upon which 
the landing plan had been based — that 



the western end of the island would be the 
main area of resistance — had proved false. 
By the end of the day it was clear that the 
bulk of enemy troops (estimated next 
morning to be about 200) 45 had aban- 
doned whatever defenses they had built 
up in the area and had withdrawn to the 
eastern end of the island to await the ad- 
vance of the attacking troops. 

44 27th Inf Div G-2 Msg File, 21 Nov 43, Msgs 73, 
75, 133, 145. 

45 Ibid., Msg 17. 



CHAPTER VII 



Consolidating the Beachhead 



Build-up of the Assault 

In the initial landings on Butaritari a 
platoon of Company C, 102d Engineers, 
was attached to each of the infantry bat- 
talion landing teams. One squad of each 
platoon was distributed over the first-wave 
boats of the assault companies and came 
ashore prepared to clear beach and under- 
water obstacles with Bangalore torpedoes. 
The remainder of the platoon of engineers 
landed with the reserve of the infantry 
battalion landing team. 

Shore parties were furnished by the 
152d Engineers. Company A was attached 
to the 3d Battalion Landing Team at Red 
Beach 2, Company B to the 1st Battalion 
Landing Team at Red Beach, and Com- 
pany C to the 2d Battalion Landing Team 
at Yellow Beach. 

All three shore parties encountered un- 
expected difficulties. As the 27th Division's 
engineer reported, "Red Beach was a 
beach in name only and afforded landing 
with difficulty for about six boats at flood 
tide." At Red Beach 2, landings could be 
made only for about three hours before 
and after flood tide, and even then only 
with considerable difficulty. Since the tide 
was high at H Hour, troops and supplies 
could be landed there with relative ease 
for the first few hours, but as the tide ap- 
proached the ebb, progress in unloading 
was slowed down. The lagoon off Yellow 
Beach was of course too shallow to float 
LCVP's or LCM's closer than 200 yards 



offshore, and up to noon of the second day 
of the operation the only supplies to reach 
this beach had to be transferred from 
landing craft to amphibian tractors at the 
reefs edge. By that time, sectional pon- 
toons, brought along by naval vessels and 
set up on all beaches, projected far enough 
to seaward to permit all types of landing 
craft to debark their supplies directly 
without transferring them first to amphib- 
ian tractors. Also by then, King's Wharf, 
including the seaplane runway, was suffi- 
ciently repaired to accommodate all the 
shore parties of the 152d Engineers, which 
moved to the pier and organized two shifts 
to assist in unloading. 1 

The difficulties at Red Beaches clouded 
an otherwise successful landing. By the 
close of the first day's action, only a small 
part of the supplies and equipment had 
been unloaded, and even some of the 
troops were still far from shore aboard 
small craft as night closed in. By evening 
of D Day, Leonard Wood had unloaded ap- 
proximately 38 percent of her supplies and 
equipment and Calvert about 23 percent. 
Not all of this had reached shore, however. 
Some was still embarked in landing craft 
at nightfall. By 1800 all the transports had 
completed their unloading for the day and 
got under way for night cruising disposi- 
tions. 2 



1 Makin Task Force Engineer (Col Brendan A. 
Burns), Rpt and Recommendations, 20 Dec 43, pp. 
1-2. 

2 USS Calvert Action Rpt, 28 Nov 43, pp. 3-4; USS 
Leonard Wood Action Rpt, 20 Dec 43, p. 4. 



CONSOLIDATING THE BEACHHEAD 



103 




Also among the first waves to land at all 
beaches were communications personnel 
carrying both radio and telephone equip- 
ment. These were provided by the Detach- 
ment, 27th Signal Company, the commu- 
nications platoon of the 165th Regimental 
Combat Team, and three teams of the 
75th Signal Company, each attached to a 
battalion landing team. Shortly after land- 
ing they were able to establish radio con- 
tact between the troops ashore and the 
division and regimental commanders still 
afloat. Uninterrupted radio contact be- 
tween ship and shore, however, was at first 
difficult to maintain. Radio sets were wet 
from the brief rain squall that had oc- 
curred early in the morning and were fur- 
ther damaged by waves and spray break- 
ing over the landing craft during the long 
wait between loading from the transports 



and landing at the beaches. Landing craft 
grounded on the reefs, and since all per- 
sonnel had to wade ashore in water from 
waist to shoulder depth, radio and tele- 
phone equipment was further damaged. 
Some difficulty was also encountered in 
maintaining contact by wire run laterally 
along Red Beaches — amphibian tractors 
churning across the beach, for example, 
often tore up the wire. Wires strung from 
trees later in the day made communica- 
tions more reliable. 3 



3 27th Inf Div Rpt of Participation of TF 52.6 in 
Galvanic (hereafter cited as TF 52.6 Galvanic Rpt), 
p. 3; Signal Officer 27th Inf Div Task Force (Lt Col 
Thomas J. Murray), Summary of Signal Communi- 
cations During the Galvanic Operations of 27th Inf 
Div Task Force, p. 3; Ltr, Maj Rex R. Stillwell, 
USMC, to G-3 V Phib Corps, 4 Dec 43, in V Phib 
Corps Galvanic Rpt, Incl F, Rpt by Special Staff 
Officers, Sec. V, p. 2. 



104 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



More serious was the fact that during 
the first day of landing no direct radio 
communication was established between 
the 1st and 3d Battalion Landing Teams 
on Red Beaches and the 2d Battalion 
Landing Team on Yellow Beach, although 
previous arrangements had been made for 
this by the allocation of an appropriate 
frequency and the assignment of necessary 
radio sets. Late in the day, it is true, oc- 
casional messenger service connected the 
2d Battalion Landing Team with the rest 
of the force on the west end of the island, 
but not until the morning of the second 
day of operations was full radio, wire, and 
messenger service established between 
Red and Yellow Beaches. 4 In view of the 
fact that these two forces were approach- 
ing each other in a delicate maneuver that 
required precise timing and complete co- 
ordination, the absence of direct radio 
contact between them was a serious handi- 
cap. 

Another defect in communications 
noted during the first days of the Makin 
operation was faulty communications 
procedures. Greenwich civil time and local 
time were used interchangeably in the 
date-time groups of messages and in the 
time specified in the contents of the mes- 
sages. Authenticators were seldom used, 
although standard procedure required it. 
Many message centers were apparently 
under the impression that local time was 
zone plus-9V2 (that is, Greenwich civil time 
plus 9V2 hours) whereas it was actually 
zone plus- 12, thus causing a 2V2-hour error 
in their dispatches. None of this was fatal, 
but it did cause some avoidable confusion 
at headquarters. 5 

Most serious was the failure, or rather 
absence, of communications between tanks 
and the infantry units that they were sup- 
posed to support. The tanks attached to 



the 27th Division for this operation were 
equipped with radio sets that could not 
operate on either the infantry or artillery 
nets. From the outset this caused consider- 
able confusion and was largely responsible 
for the poor infantry-tank co-ordination 
that characterized the fighting on Makin. 
The only sets in the division that could op- 
erate with the tanks were those of the 27th 
Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop. There- 
fore, it was necessary to attach a radio 
team from that unit to each battalion 
landing team headquarters. In the lower 
echelons (rifle companies, platoons, and 
squads, and tank platoons and individual 
tanks) there was no communication 
agency capable of linking the components 
of the infantry-tank teams. 6 

In spite of these difficulties and defects 
in establishing and maintaining direct 
contact between lower echelons, commu- 
nications between the task force com- 
mander (Admiral Turner) and the various 
units ashore and between the regimental 
and division commanders and the ele- 
ments under them were reported generally 
satisfactory. This was provided in part by 
the air liaison parties, and the shore fire 
control parties, which were landed fairly 
early in the operation and were attached 
to each battalion landing team. 7 

Two shore fire control parties were as- 
signed to each battalion. These landed 

4 Signal Officer 27th Inf Div Task Force, Summary 
of Signal Communications, Galvanic, p. 3. 

5 27th Inf Div G-3 Msg File, G-2 Msg File, passim; 
Ltr, Maj Stillwell to G-3 V Phib Corps, 4 Dec 43, in 
V Phib Corps Galvanic Rpt, Incl F, Rpt by Special 
Staff Officers, Sec. V, p. 2. 

6 TF 52.6 Galvanic Rpt, pp. 2-3. 

7 ALP U-13, attached to 3d BLT, was in position 
ashore by 0910; ALP U-l 1, attached to 1st BLT, by 
1 1 10; ALP U-l 2, attached to 2d BLT, was held up 
off Yellow Beach by the air attack against the hulks 
but was landed by 1258. V Phib Corps Galvanic 
Rpt, Incl F, Special Staff Officers Rpt, Sec. I, Air 
Officer Rpt, pp. 3-4. 



CONSOLIDATING THE BEACHHEAD 



105 



with their respective infantry battalions 
and were immediately able to furnish close 
supporting fires on call. On D Day one 
cruiser (Minneapolis ) and two destroyers 
(Dewey and Phelps ) were designated to de- 
liver fires on request from these parties. 
However, no requests were received, either 
on that day or later in the operation. This 
failure to call upon naval guns can be ex- 
plained in part by the relatively limited 
area lying between Yellow Beach and Red 
Beaches, an area apparently considered 
by troop commanders to be too restricted 
to risk calling on naval fire for support. In 
spite of the fact that the shore fire control 
parties were not called upon to perform 
the functions for which they were prima- 
rily intended, they did provide a valuable 
and sometimes the only communications 
liaison between ship and shore. 8 

To each battalion landing team was also 
attached an air liaison party whose func- 
tion was to call for air strikes in support of 
ground troops at the request of the respec- 
tive troop commanders. Air Liaison Party 
U-13, attached to the 3d Battalion Land- 
ing Team, was in position ashore about 
100 yards from the beach by 0910. The 
party attached to the 1st Battalion Land- 
ing Team (ALP U-l 1) reported in position 
at 1110. That attached to the 2d Battalion 
Landing Team (ALP U- 1 2) was held up 
off Yellow Beach by the air attack against 
the hulks, but was able to get ashore by 
1258. 9 As in the case of naval fire, no close 
air strikes were called for against land tar- 
gets on D Day, but again the air liaison 
parties had reliable and consistent com- 
munications with the various headquar- 
ters afloat and in many instances, especially 
during the early hours after the landing, 
these groups and the shore fire control 
parties were the only sources of informa- 
tion available to higher echelons. 10 



One other important communications 
net was that established between the field 
artillery batteries and the division com- 
mander, once the latter got ashore. Al- 
though communications by wire between 
artillery units and infantry units was im- 
possible to maintain because of the dam- 
age wrought by tanks and tractors, radio 
communications were deemed satisfactory. 
Also, the radios manned by artillery per- 
sonnel often filled the gap created by the 
failure of communications between in- 
fantry units and command posts. It was 
rare that the division commander could 
not secure information from the front lines 
of any battalion landing team through the 
artillery communications setup. 11 

One result of these initial failures in 
communications ashore (contrasted with 
the comparatively superior ship-to-shore 
communications setup) was to delay mov- 
ing the entire division headquarters from 
Leonard Wood until the second day of the 

8 Ltr, 27th Inf Div Artillery Officer (Col Harold 
G. Browne) to CTF 52.6, 7 Dec 43, sub: Rpt on Naval 
Gunfire in Makin Opn, p. 2, AG 327 Art 0.3.0 
(22866), DRB AGO; Fifth Amph Force Rpt, Capture 
of Gilbert Islands, Incl H, p. 4. 

9 V Phib Corps Galvanic Rpt, Incl F, Special Staff 
Officers Rpt, Sec. I, Air Officer Rpt, pp. 3-4. 

10 Ibid.; Ltr, Maj Stillwell to G-3 V Phib Corps, 4 
Dec 43, p. 2. 

11 Signal Officer 27th Inf Div Task Force, Sum- 
mary of Signal Communications, Galvanic, p. 4; 
TF 52.6 Galvanic Rpt, p. 8; Ltr, 1st Lt James B. 
Sullivan to Lt Col Arthur W. Tyson, 7 Dec 43, sub: 
Observations on Makin Island Opn, p. 4. 

The report of Admiral Turner's communications 
officer is far less sanguine in its estimates of the effi- 
ciency of communications ashore than are the official 
Army reports. It reads, in part, "Landing Force Com- 
munications ashore were largely non-existent. There 
were no beach laterals and no command channels. 
Some breakage of equipment, delays in loading, usual 
losses and confusion and a lack of command organ- 
ization appear to be the major causes of an outstand- 
ing lack of communications. Equipments which were 
finally gotten ashore and in working condition were 
not utilized on channels as planned." Fifth Amph 
Force Rpt, Capture of Gilbert Islands, Incl D, pp. 7-8. 



106 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



operation. 12 In spite of these difficulties all 
other command posts were set up on the 
island before nightfall of the first day's ac- 
tion. Colonel Conroy had left his ship as 
early as 0900, and by 1 100 the regimental 
command post was set up ashore. 13 Mean- 
while, Colonel Hart, commanding the 3d 
Battalion Landing Team, had opened his 
command post, as had Colonel Kelley of 
the 1st Battalion Landing Team. 14 By 
1800 General Smith was ashore, although 
his command post still remained afloat. 15 

First Night on Butaritari 

By the time action against the enemy 
had been closed in the late afternoon of 20 
November, the first objectives of the inva- 
sion of Makin had in the main been ac- 
complished. Except for the small pocket 
contained by Company C, the West Tank 
Barrier system had been reduced. Other 
secondary aims had also been realized. A 
solid holding line facing east had been 
established, and the likelihood of any sub- 
stantial Japanese reinforcement of the 
West Tank Barrier reduced to a minimum. 
Beachheads had been secured on two 
shores and were in process of development. 
Artillery was ashore and had already fired 
a few missions in support of Company E's 
advance eastward. All command posts 



were ashore except the division's. (Map 5) 



With the virtual reduction of the West 
Tank Barrier, the troops facing the main 
body of Japanese on the eastern part of the 
island automatically became the front-line 
units. The principal element in the east on 
the night of D Day was Company E, rein- 
forced by one platoon of Company G and 
a part of Detachment Z of the 105th In- 
fantry, one of the special landing groups. 

The nearest American position behind 
the front-line elements was the medium 
tank park established by the 193d Tank 



Battalion near the center of Yellow Beach. 
This was some 500 yards to the rear of 
Company E's line. Tank crews either 
stayed in their vehicles or joined Company 
H and the Yellow Beach shore party in 
digging a perimeter defense. The com- 
mand post of the 2d Battalion was also lo- 
cated on Yellow Beach, adjacent to the 
perimeter established by the tank bat- 
talion. 16 

About five hundred yards farther to the 
west, dug in near the lagoon along the 
eastern edge of the West Tank Barrier sys- 
tem, was Company G, less the platoon that 
had joined Company E. Company F dug 
in directly south of Company G, in the 
same area. Beyond the tank trap, Com- 
pany C set up its night position just east of 
the "pocket" that had caused so much 
trouble during the afternoon. The other 
three companies of the 1st Battalion were 
in position along the southern half of the 
west barrier system, bending back to the 
west along the ocean shore. The remainder 
of the 165th Regimental Combat Team 
was spread out over the island from the 
West Tank Barrier to Red Beaches. The 3d 
Battalion had assembled just southwest of 
Rita Lake shortly after its relief and dug in 
there for the night. General Ralph Smith, 
after coming ashore at 1800, had ordered 
Colonel Hart to prepare his men for a 
movement to Kuma Island, northeast of 
Butaritari, at 0900 the next morning. 
Disturbing news from Tarawa prompted 
Admiral Turner to disapprove this pro- 
jected move, however. The 3d Battalion 
was to be maintained in readiness at Rita 



12 27th Inf Div G-3 Jnl, 20 Nov 43, Msg 95. 

13 165th Inf Regt Combined Jnl, 20 Nov 43, Msg 
File, Msg 22. 

14 1st Bn 165th Inf Regt Combined Jnl, 20 Nov 43, 
Msg 16. 

15 27th Inf Div G-3 Jnl, 20 Nov 43, Msg 95. 

16 Baxter, Armored Force Action on Makin, pp. 
10-14. 



CONSOLIDATING THE BEACHHEAD 



107 



FIRST NIGHT ON BUTARITARI 

20-21 November 1943 




MAP 5 



Lake for transshipment to Tarawa if it 
should be needed there. 17 

The 105th Field Artillery Battalion dug 
in for the night near its guns south of 
Ukiangong Village and was prepared, if 
called upon, to furnish night fires for the 
units farther to the east. Nearby was the 
second bivouac area of the 193d Tank Bat- 
talion, occupied mainly by the amphibian 
tractors of the Red Beach special landing 
groups and by light tanks. Another pla- 
toon of light tanks was situated at Red 
Beach 2, where practically all the remain- 
ing troops ashore had assembled. 18 

As night closed in on the island, it ap- 
peared probable that the enemy would 
adopt one or more of three courses. He 



could defend his current positions in 
depth, withdraw to the eastern part of 
Butaritari and then cross over to Kuma 
Island, or counterattack in force. 19 

Actually, no major counterattacks were 
undertaken by the Japanese during the 
first night, nor was there any organized 
withdrawal eastward. Some successful at- 
tempts were made to bolster defenses 
along the eastern line and a few positions 
at the base of King's Wharf were reoccu- 
pied and new machine gun emplacements 



17 27th Inf Div G-3 Msg File, 20 Nov 43, Msgs 86- 
91. 

18 Baxter, Armored Force Action on Makin, pp. 
10-14. 

19 27th Inf Div G-2 Periodic Rpt, Rpt 1, 20 Nov 43. 



108 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



constructed facing the American lines. 
One machine gun was placed in the 
wrecked seaplane lying in the lagoon off 
of King's Wharf, another at the base of 
King's Wharf, and three more were set up 
in buildings in the area immediately south- 
ward. 20 

Also, a few efforts were made to work 
small patrols into the area of the West 
Tank Barrier system. Some of these were 
intercepted. One, of from twelve to sixteen 
men, tried to move around the left flank 
of Company E near the sandspit, but was 
stopped by rifle fire. 21 In the sector as- 
signed to Detachment Z, 105th Infantry, 
several enemy infiltrated American posi- 
tions. Three were killed and two wounded 
by rifle fire and grenades. 22 One twelve- 
man patrol did manage to slip along the 
ocean shore and reach a point between 
Companies A and B. Only twenty feet 
from Company A its members stopped to 
fire at Company B, which had been dis- 
covered to the front. When dawn came the 
enemy was revealed only a few yards away 
and the whole patrol was killed without 
trouble. 23 

The communications breakdown among 
units of the Japanese militated against any 
successful reinforcement of the West Tank 
Barrier system, for while patrols were at- 
tempting to infiltrate the system, survivors 
behind the American lines were trying to 
get out. For example, one ten-man group 
was killed by grenades and BAR fire as it 
tried to escape toward the ocean early in 
the morning. 24 

These instances constituted the only re- 
corded cases of organized Japanese coun- 
teractivity during the first night after the 
landing on Butaritari, and there is no evi- 
dence that these various movements of 
small patrols were in any way co-ordi- 
nated. Other than that, the enemy's coun- 



termeasures were limited to sniper fire from 
lone riflemen located within or close to the 
U.S. lines. This was kept up all night and 
was reportedly accompanied by a variety 
of ruses such as dropping lighted fire- 
crackers to attract American fire and call- 
ing out messages in garbled English. 25 

One effect of these tactics was to pre- 
cipitate a breakdown of fire discipline 
among the green and nervous American 
troops. "Trigger-happy" soldiers peppered 
away indiscriminately at unseen targets 
throughout the night, not only wasting 
ammunition but, more important, draw- 
ing frequent counterfire. The worst ex- 
ample occurred just after daybreak when 
a man from the 15 2d Engineers ran along 
the lagoon shore from the direction of On 
Chong's Wharf toward the command post 
of the 2d Battalion, shouting, "There's a 
hundred and fifty Japs in the trees!" A 
wave of shooting hysteria swept the area. 
When the engineer admitted that he had 
seen no enemy but had merely heard fir- 
ing, shouted orders to cease fire proved 
ineffectual. Direct commands to individ- 
uals were necessary. The harassing tactics 
of the enemy were to this extent effective. 26 

Final Mop-up at the West Tank Barrier 
and Yellow Beach 

The first problem to be solved on the 
morning of the second day was the elimi- 
nation of the enemy still left alive in or 
near the West Tank Barrier system. The 

20 Interv, Gapt Ferns, Marshall Intervs, pp. 55-58. 

21 Interv, Gapt Ryan, Marshall Intervs, pp. 39-41. 

22 Interv, Gapt Ferns, Marshall Intervs, pp. 55-58. 

23 Marshall, Makin Notes, p. F14. 

24 Interv, 1st Sgt Bartholomew Mooney, Marshall 
Intervs, pp. 20-2 1 . 

25 Intervs, Capt Ben Krugman and Sgt Mooney, 
Marshall Intervs, pp. 9-10, 14, 20-21. 

26 Marshall, Makin Notes, p. F45; Durand, Rpt on 
Makin Island Expedition, p. 4. 



CONSOLIDATING THE BEACHHEAD 



109 




Japanese still held a small wedgelike 
pocket just northwest of the barrier and 
from that position could bring guns to 
bear on the east- west highway, which was 
now the main supply route from Red 
Beaches. Also, the approaches to Yellow 
Beach were not yet secure, and any at- 
tempts to bypass the pocket by bringing 
supplies through the lagoon would be 
handicapped by fire from the west. The 
two hulks on the reef near On Chong's 
Wharf, \ which had been so heavily at- 
tacked from the air and sea on D Day, 
were once more believed to be occupied by 
the enemy. 

As landing craft came into Yellow Beach 
early on the second morning, some of them 
"returned" fire against the hulks, aiming 
at the top decks of the ships. On shore, 
among the American troops in or near the 



West Tank Barrier clearing, intermittent 
bursts of machine gun fire were received for 
as long as two hours after dawn. These 
were probably "overs" directed at the 
hulks from the landing craft. At 0818, 
while landing craft stayed clear, the first of 
a long series of air strikes, which continued 
until 1630, began against the hulks. 27 At 
0920 several of the medium tanks went to 
the water's edge and shelled the derelicts 
with their 75-mm. guns. They were re- 
ported to be overshooting by some 2,000 
yards, their shells falling into the lagoon in 
the middle of the boat lanes. Whether 
from enemy or from friendly fire, the ap- 
proach to Yellow Beach was so dangerous 



27 V Phib Corps Galvanic Rpt, Incl F, Rpt by 
Special Staff Officers, Sec. I, Air Officer's Rpt, Incl 
A, pp. 6-8. 



110 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



for the landing craft that, as late as 1230 
when the tide was beginning to ebb, about 
forty of them were still circling well out in 
the lagoon, afraid to come in. 28 

Finally, late in the afternoon, Captain 
Coates, commanding officer of Company 
C, was ordered to dispatch a detail to in- 
vestigate the hulks. He ordered 2d Lt. 
Everett W. McGinley to take sixteen men 
in two LVT's to board the two vessels and 
eliminate whatever he found there in the 
way of enemy positions. They found noth- 
ing. The top deck of each ship was so 
wrecked, twisted, and torn that in Mc- 
Ginley's opinion no enemy could have 
fired from there without being in plain 
view. From the top deck there was a sheer 
drop to the bottom of the hulks without 
any intervening deck. Water, waist-high, 
covered the bottom. The only possible lo- 
cation for hidden Japanese was a two-foot 
ledge that ran around the interior walls of 
both hulks. Although he found no empty 
shells or weapons McGinley admitted that 
some might have been on the lagoon 
bottom hidden from view by the water. 29 

Whether or not the hulks had ever con- 
tained enemy positions remains doubtful. 
Lt. Col. William R. Durand, the official 
observer sent to Makin by General Rich- 
ardson's headquarters, had no doubts. On 
the question as to whether the hulk con- 
tained machine guns he reported, "I am 
certain that it did; not only because it 
interrupted landing operations and actu- 
ally caused a few casualties but also be- 
cause a captured overlay showed the posi- 
tions." 30 The testimony was corroborated 
by all the officers and men of Company F 
who were interviewed on the subject. This 
was the company that dug in along the 
West Tank Barrier about 300 to 500 yards 
from the hulks. All claimed that on the 
second morning, for about an hour or 



more at intervals of every few minutes, di- 
rect fire from the hulks hit into the dirt 
right along their line of positions. 31 

On the other hand, in Colonel Kelley's 
opinion, the belief that fire was being di- 
rected from the sunken vessels both against 
the lagoon and inland was a hallucination 
from beginning to end. It was his belief 
that the fire that observers thought to be 
coming from the hulks against landing 
craft as they came through the lagoon was 
actually coming from the shore. He also 
believed that fire later received by troops 
on shore from the direction of the lagoon 
came not from the hulks but from landing 
craft that were firing at the hulks and 
sending "overs" into the areas occupied by 
friendly troops. This conclusion was con- 
firmed by Lt. Col. S. L. A. Marshall, the 
official historian assigned to the operation 
by the Historical Branch, G-2, War De- 
partment General Staff. 32 

With all this conflicting testimony, it is 
impossible for the historian to reach any 
final conclusion except to say that the 
weight of the evidence would seem to in- 
dicate that the hulks had been unoccupied 
by the enemy from the very beginning of 
the operation. In any case, it is certain that 
after the investigation conducted by Lieu- 
tenant McGinley, no more fire was heard 
from the hulks or the area near them. 

Meanwhile, operations against the pock- 
et west of the tank barrier had begun at 
0800 under the direction of Major Ma- 
honey, the 1st Battalion commander. He 
ordered S. Sgt. Emmanuel F. DeFabees to 
skirt the pocket with a patrol and enter it 

28 27th Inf Div G-4Jnl, 21 Nov 43, p. 5. 
2a Marshall Intervs, p. 37. 

30 Durand, Rpt on Makin Island Expedition, p. 2. 

31 Marshall, Makin Notes, p. F42. 

32 Ibid.; Interv, Edmund G. Love with Col Gerard 
W. Kelley, Sep 47; Ltr, S. L. A. Marshall to Dr. 
Kent Roberts Greenfield, 2 Apr 52, OCMH. 



CONSOLIDATING THE BEACHHEAD 



111 



from the right flank. The sergeant cut 
sharp right for fifty yards and then sought 
to force an entrance, his men crawling on 
their bellies. The patrol "found the fire too 
heavy." It then went obliquely for seventy- 
five yards and was again turned back. By 
this time DeFabees was convinced that 
much of the fire was coming from friendly 
forces and the patrol was withdrawn. It 
was about this time that Company A was 
firing toward a supposed Japanese ma- 
chine gun nest on the lagoon side of the 
island and Company F along the tank 
trap was receiving fire from the direction 
of the lagoon itself, which may or may not 
have been from American landing craft. 
In any case, there was considerable con- 
fusion on the part of all hands as to just 
what were the sources of fire against U.S. 
positions in the west of the West Tank 
Barrier. 33 

Thirty minutes after DeFabees had 
withdrawn his patrol, at 0840, Major 
Mahoney announced that Company C 
had cleared out the pocket and was reor- 
ganizing and extending to Company B. 34 
This announcement was slightly prema- 
ture since the flank was not considered en- 
tirely secure until about noon. 35 

The liveliest action in the West Tank 
Barrier zone occurred in a coconut grove 
along the eastern edge of the barrier clear- 
ing, just north of the middle of the island. 
About 1030 a group of Japanese began 
firing rifles and light machine guns into 
the platoon of Company F that was mop- 



ping up along the former stronghold. 
Captain Leonard asked for three light 
tanks to come up and give him help. The 
tanks, after reporting, moved over to the 
highway, which skirted the northern edge 
of the clearing, so that their line of fire was 
toward the ocean. While the tanks were 
spraying the tree tops with machine gun 
fire and canister they were approached by 
a fourth towing fuel along the highway. 
After the latter's tow cable snapped it also 
joined the other tanks in the attack. 

The four tanks had been firing for about 
five minutes when a Navy bomber sud- 
denly swung over them at a very low alti- 
tude and dropped a 2,000-pound frag- 
mentation bomb about twenty-five feet 
from one of the tanks. 1st Lt. Edward J. 
Gallagher, the tank officer in charge, was 
killed, as were two enlisted men nearby. 
Several others were injured. By the time the 
tank crews had recovered from surprise 
and concussion, the Japanese were giving 
no further trouble. 36 

This episode at the tank trap closed the 
action at the West Tank Barrier. No fur- 
ther important difficulty was encountered 
with enemy stragglers in that zone. Atten- 
tion could now be fully centered on the 
drive eastward to secure the remainder of 
the island. 

33 Marshall, Makin Notes, p. F17. 

34 1st Bn 165th InfRegt Combined Jnl, 21 Nov 43, 
Msg 8. 

35 Marshall, Makin Notes, p. F17. 

36 Interv, Lt Robert Welch, Marshall Intervs, pp. 
32-33; Marshall, Makin Notes, pp. F43, EE6-EE7. 



CHAPTER VIII 



Makin Taken 



The plan for the capture of Makin, 
though divided into three phases, was a 
continuing process that involved no major 
regroupings of forces. After the establish- 
ment of the beachheads on Butaritari the 
first objective had been the reduction of 
the West Tank Barrier, and this was fol- 
lowed by a drive to the east and pursuit of 
the enemy to outlying islands. The West 
Tank Barrier had been reduced during the 
first day's action. The second day would 
see — in addition to the mopping up of the 
area around the West Tank Barrier and of 
the western end of Butaritari — the begin- 
ning of the drive to the east. The situation 
at Tarawa had prevented General Ralph 
Smith from moving the 3d Battalion, 165th 
Infantry, to Kuma Island early on the 
morning of the second day, a move that 
would have eliminated much of the need 
for the third phase of the operation. He 
dispatched that morning, however, a small 
party under Maj. Jacob H. Herzog, assist- 
ant intelligence officer of the division, with 
orders to investigate Kuma for the pres- 
ence of Japanese forces. 1 Also, air observers 
were instructed to keep a close watch for 
any signs of a large enemy movement to 
the outlying islands. 2 With these precau- 
tions, the main attention of the 165th Regi- 
mental Combat Team was centered during 
the second day on the drive to the eastern 
end of Butaritari. 



The Main Action of the Second Day 

The plan of attack for the second day 
provided that Company E and attached 
elements should immediately push east- 
ward from positions of the night before 
while Company F should remain in reserve 
near Yellow Beach. General Smith's order, 
sent out the previous evening, had set the 
jump-ofFhour at 0700, following an intense 
artillery preparation. 3 Colonel McDon- 
ough, however, elected to defer the advance 
of the infantry until the medium tanks 
were ready, and these were delayed until 
enough fuel could be brought forward. 4 

During the interim aircraft pounded the 
area in front of the 2d Battalion. At 0843 
the air liaison party attached to McDon- 
ough's battalion requested bombing and 
strafing of the zone ahead of Company E 
as far as the East Tank Barrier. This was 
complied with. As soon as McDonough 
had ascertained that the tanks would be 
fueled by 1045 he ordered the attack to 

1 TF 52.6 Galvanic Rpt, p. 8. 

2 It was possible for troops to move to Kuma from 
Butaritari along the reef at low tide without recourse 
to boats. 

3 27th Inf Div G-3 Msg File, 20 Nov 43, Msg 92. 
Note: In spite of this order clearly specifying 0700 

as jump-off hour, Captain Ryan, Company E's com- 
mander, was under the impression that the renewed 
attack "was slated for 0800." Interv, Capt Ryan, Mar- 
shall Intervs, pp. 38-41. 

4 Durand, Rpt on Makin Island Expedition, p. 4. 



MAKIN TAKEN 



113 



jump off at 1 100. Meanwhile, at 1026 he 
radioed to his supporting aircraft that 
"tanks and troops are moving forward" 
and that all bombing and strafing should 
cease. Although this cancellation was ac- 
knowledged and confirmed, the air col- 
umns formed for the bombing runs kept 
coming in as originally ordered. Fortun- 
ately, Captain Ryan, Company E's com- 
mander, exercised firm control over his 
troops and was able to hold back their 
advance until the air attacks had ceased. 
Thus the faulty air-ground co-ordination 
caused no damage beyond delaying the 
attack even longer. 5 

By 1110 the attack was at last in prog- 
ress. 6 Ten medium tanks had been refueled 
and had moved into position to support the 
troops, 7 and Colonel McDonough chose to 
rely exclusively on these vehicles to support 
his infantry. Although both the forward 
observer and the liaison officer from the 
artillery battalion repeatedly suggested 
that fire be placed well in advance of the 
front line to soften up the enemy, the in- 
fantry commander declined it. He even 
refused to allow the forward observer to 
register the artillery battalion until after 
the day's action had ceased. 8 Although the 
105-mm. pieces on Ukiangong Point fired 
a total of twenty-one missions early in the 
morning, not a single howitzer was fired 
after 0630. 9 

On the extreme left was Detachment Z 
of the 105th Infantry. Next to it came the 
1st Platoon, Company G, which had rein- 
forced the 3d Platoon, Company E, 
throughout the night. In the center was the 
1st Platoon and on the right the 2d Platoon 
of Company E. All units moved forward in 
a skirmish line. Fifty yards to the rear, 
mopping up Japanese stragglers, was a sec- 
ond formation consisting of the 3d Platoon, 
Company E, the 2d and 3d Platoons, 



Company G, and a detail of marines con- 
sisting of the 4th Platoon of the V Amphib- 



ious Reconnaissance Company. 10 {Map 6) 
The line advanced steadily, though 
slowly, averaging about three yards a min- 
ute. 1st Sgt. Thomas E. Valentine of the 
front echelon of Company E described the 
opposition encountered: 

On the second day we did not allow sniper 
fire to deter us. We had already found that 
the snipers were used more as a nuisance than 
an obstacle. They would fire, but we noted 
little effect by way of casualties. We learned 
that by taking careful cover and moving rap- 
idly from one concealment to another we 
could minimize the sniper threat. Moreover, 
we knew that our reserves would get them if 
we did not. So we contented ourselves with 
firing at a tree when we thought a shot had 
come from it and we continued to move on. 11 

West of the tunnel that had been taken 
during the previous afternoon but subse- 
quently relinquished, the enemy fell back 
again. In the next 200 yards, from the tun- 
nel to the road crossing the island from the 
base of King's Wharf, the stiffest resistance 
of the day was encountered. 



5 V Phib Corps Galvanic Rpt, Incl F, Rpt by Spe- 
cial StafT Officers, Sec. I, Air Officer's Rpt, Incl A, pp. 
6-7; Durand, Rpt on Makin Island Expedition, pp. 

4- 5. 

6 27th Inf Div G-3 Msg File, 21 Nov 43, Msg 24. 

7 193d TkBn Rpt, pp. 41-57. 

8 105th FA Bn Informal Rpt of A Battery, Rpt of 
Liaison Officer No. 2, 105th FA Bn, Kansas City 
Records Center, AGO (KCRC). 

9 Marshall, Makin Notes, p. EE 1 1 ; 105th FA Bn 

5- 3 Rpt on Action, Butaritari Island, Makin Atoll, 
p. 4, KCRC. 

10 V Phib Corps Galvanic Rpt, Incl C, G-2 Rpt, 
Incl D, Rpt of 1st Lt Harvey C. Weeks, USMCR, p. 2; 
Interv, Capt Ryan, Marshall Intervs, pp. 38-41. These 
marines had been part of the reinforced 2d Platoon of 
Company G, which had been landed from Neville at 
Kotabu and Tukerere Islands on D Day. Having rec- 
onnoitered the tiny islets and discovered no opposi- 
tion, they had returned to their ship the same day and 
were subsequently landed on Butaritari. 

11 Interv, 1st Sgt Thomas E. Valentine, Marshall 
Intervs, pp. 42-43. 



114 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 




From an enemy seaplane beached on 
the reef, machine gun and rifle fire struck 
at the left flank and in toward the center of 
the line. To allay this nuisance, four of the 
medium tanks finally pumped enough 
shells from their primary weapons at close 
range to annihilate the eighteen occupants 
concealed in the plane's body and wings. 12 
On the right an emplacement, intended 
mainly for defense against landings from 
the ocean, contained three dual-purpose 



3-inch guns. Farther on, at the ocean end 
of the cross-island road, a twin-barreled, 
13-mm. dual-purpose machine gun also 
covered part of the zone of advance. 13 

In the center, about thirty yards beyond 
the tunnel, there was a large underground 

12 Interv, Capt Ryan, Marshall Intervs, pp. 38-41. 
From the air an explosion in the seaplane was ob- 
served at 1146. V Phib Corps Galvanic Rpt, Incl F, 
Rpt by Special Staff Officers, Sec. I, Air Officer's Rpt, 
Incl A, p. 7. 

13 JICPOA Bull 4-44, map facing p. 1.. 



116 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



shelter, and about thirty yards farther on, 
six rifle pits connected by a trench. 
Squarely across the King's Wharf road, a 
little south of the middle of the island, was 
a longer trench with eleven rifle pits. 14 

Between noon and 1400 the advance 
passed through one of the most heavily de- 
fended areas on the island. On the lagoon 
shore at the base of King's Wharf, along 
the east-west highway, and along King's 
Wharf road were buildings and tons of 
fuel and ammunition used by Japanese 
aviation personnel. A group of hospital 
buildings was situated near the lagoon at 
the base of the wharf. Under coconut trees 
along the ocean shore at the right were four 
machine gun emplacements supported by 
ten rifle pits, the whole group being pro- 
tected on the east and west flanks by 
double-apron wire running inland from 
the water across the ocean-shore road. 15 

One after another, all of these positions 
were overrun. On the left Detachment Z of 
the 105th Infantry moved steadily along 
the lagoon shore, wiping out trenches and 
emplacements with the help of one me- 
dium tank. Combat engineers using TNT 
blocks were also employed. By the close of 
the day the detachment unit had advanced 
from six to seven hundred yards east of 
King's Wharf, suffering only six casual- 
ties. 16 In the center and on the right of the 
line, Company E met with equal success. 
Moving slowly but steadily forward, by 
1700 it had pushed some 1,000 yards east 
of Yellow Beach. Tank-infantry co-ordina- 
tion was much improved over that of the 
previous day. Infantry troops pointed out 
enemy strong points to their supporting 
tanks, covered them as the tanks moved in 
for close-range fire, and mopped up the 
positions once the tanks had withdrawn or 
moved forward. 17 Meanwhile, in the rear 



areas, Company A joined Company F at 
1 300 in the vicinity of the West Tank Bar- 
rier and proceeded to mop up stranded 
enemy riflemen in that area. 18 

The day's advance had wrested from 
the Japanese their long-range radio re- 
ceiving station, a heavily revetted, seventy- 
eight by thirty-three foot underground 
building at the south edge of a cleared 
rectangular area east of King's Wharf. 
Other installations captured or destroyed 
left the main area of enemy military posi- 
tions entirely in American hands. 19 When 
action ceased about 1700, all Japanese re- 
sistance from Red Beaches to Stone Pier 
had been eliminated with the exception of 
a few isolated snipers. 20 Total U.S. casual- 
ties for the day were even fewer than on 
the previous day — eighteen killed and 
fifteen seriously wounded. 21 Still ahead lay 
the East Tank Barrier system, resembling 
that on the west and designed primarily to 
stop an assault from the east. 

The job of continuing the next morn- 
ing's attack would not fall to McDonough's 
battalion, which had carried the main bur- 
den of advance from Yellow Beach to Stone 
Pier. Shortly after the day's fighting had 
ceased, the 2d Battalion was ordered into 
reserve by General Ralph Smith. At the 
same time, Colonel Hart's 3d Battalion 
was ordered to relieve the 2d, commencing 
at daylight on 22 November, and to attack 
eastward vigorously, commencing at 0800. 

" Ibid. 

15 Ibid. 

16 Interv, Capt Ferns, Marshall Intervs, pp. 55-58. 

17 Interv, Capt Ryan, Marshall Intervs, pp. 38-41. 

18 Interv, Capt O'Brien, Marshall Intervs, pp. 
22-23. 

19 JICPOA Bull 4-44, II, p. 24. 

20 27th Inf Div G-3 Msg File, 21 Nov 43, Msg 37; 
27th Inf Div G-2 Msg File, 22 Nov 43, Msg 167. 

21 USAFICPA Participation Rpt Galvanic, Annex 
10, Table IV. 



MAKIN TAKEN 



117 



Hart was directed to employ, as the situ- 
ation dictated, Companies A and C of the 
193d Tank Battalion, the 105th Field Ar- 
tillery Battalion, and whatever naval gun- 
fire and aerial support he required. This 
relief was approved by General Holland 
Smith, who had by that time come ashore 
and was with the division commander. 22 

The Second Night 

As night closed down on the second 
day's fighting on Butaritari, the supply 
situation was still unsatisfactory. Earlier 
in the afternoon Colonel Ferris, the 27th 
Division's supply officer, had reconnoitered 
Yellow Beach and discovered that only 
amphibian tractors could negotiate the 
reef, that vehicles were being drowned out 
when they struck potholes created in the 
reef shelf by naval shells, and that pallets 
were being dunked as they were pulled off 
landing craft at the edge of the beach. 
Also, the beachhead itself was so cluttered 
with foxholes, tree trunks, and other ob- 
stacles that it was highly unsatisfactory as 
a point of supply. Meanwhile, Admiral 
Turner had ordered all ships excepting 
Pierce to unload on Yellow Beach, with the 
result that many landing craft that might 
otherwise have been unloaded on Red 
Beaches were tied up in the lagoon unable 
to dump their loads because of adverse hy- 
drographic and beach conditions. Ferris 
consulted with Admiral Turner late in the 
afternoon on board the flagship Pennsyl- 
vania, and the admiral approved using Red 
Beaches as much as possible until condi- 
tions on Yellow Beach had improved. A 
request to permit night unloading was 
denied since Turner had already ordered 
his ships to put to sea during the hours of 
darkness. 23 

Ashore, Company A was ordered to 



relieve at 1630 the advanced elements of 
Company E and Company G on the front 
line. The latter withdrew to the lagoon 
shore west of Company A and dug in. A 
little later Company E retired to a line 
about 300 yards west of the Stone Pier 
road. In the center of the forward line 
Company A established its perimeter and 
to the north, along the lagoon shore, was 
Detachment Z, 105th Infantry. 24 

To the rear, Company B spread out to 
cover the West Tank Barrier. In an effort 
to prevent the indiscriminate firing that 
had characterized the previous night, 
orders were passed out to the troops to use 
hand grenades instead of rifles. About a 
hundred grenades in all were thrown from 
Company B's perimeter during the night. 
Next morning five dead Japanese were 
found lying beyond the perimeter, all ap- 
parently killed by grenade fire. Then, just 
before the men withdrew from their fox- 
holes, they killed two more Japanese by 
machine gun fire directed at surrounding 
tree tops. 25 

Early in the morning hours a sentry on 
the lagoon shore threw the troops in that 
area into a brief fright by reporting the 
approach of landing craft carrying Japa- 
nese reinforcements. "There are 200 Japs 
out there," he claimed as he aroused Colo- 
nel Durand and Colonel McDonough in 
their foxholes. The two officers got up and 
reconnoitered the beach, talking in loud 
voices to avoid being shot by their own 
men. The boats proved to be American, 
and the "200 Japs" an illusion. 26 

22 27th Inf Div G-3 Msg File, 21 Nov 43, Msgs 24, 
34, 37. 

23 27 th Inf Div G-4 Jnl, pp. 5-6. 

24 Intervs, Capts O'Brien, Ryan, and Ferns, Mar- 
shall Intervs, pp. 22-23, 38-41, 55-58, respectively. 

25 Interv, Capt Berger, Marshall Intervs, pp. 25-26. 

26 Marshall, Makin Notes, pp. F30a-F30b. 



118 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



The Third Day: Capture of the East 
Tank Barrier 

Well before nightfall on the second day 
of fighting General Ralph Smith had re- 
quested permission to use the 3d Battalion, 
165th Regiment, which was still held in 
reserve against the possibility of being em- 
ployed at Tarawa. Since the situation on 
that island had improved considerably 
during the day, his request was granted at 
17 05. 27 The 27th Division commander 
immediately ordered Colonel Hart to 
leave his reserve area at daylight on the 
22d and move to the relief of the 2d Bat- 
talion facing the East Tank Barrier system. 
At 0800 the 3d Battalion, aided by light 
and medium tanks as well as artillery, 
naval gunfire, and carrier-based air sup- 
port, was to attack vigorously to the east. 
All command posts were to be moved for- 
ward to a point near Yellow Beach where 
closer control could be exercised. 28 

In conjunction with the continuation 
of the drive eastward, an expedition 
under Major Herzog would set out in 
LVT's early in the morning for Kuma 
Island to intercept any Japanese who might 
seek refuge there. Another party was to 
attempt an amphibious encirclement, go- 
ing through the lagoon to a point east of 
the front line and establishing there a 
strong barrier line across the narrowest 
part of the island to stop any Japanese flee- 
ing eastward from the pressure of the 3d 
Battalion. 29 Meanwhile, harassing artillery 
fire was to be directed into the eastern end 
of the island from time to time. 

Commencing at 0600, 22 November, the 
3d Battalion moved along the island high- 
way in column of companies toward Yel- 
low Beach. Elements of Company K led 
the column, followed by a platoon of tanks. 
Company I, the battalion's antitank pla- 



toon, the headquarters and headquarters 
company, two platoons of Company M, 
medical units, and Company L followed in 
that order. 30 As the column passed along 
Yellow Beach, approximately thirteen me- 
dium and light tanks and some engineer 
units fell in. Beyond King's Wharf, Com- 
pany K swung to the right as far as the 
ocean, while Company I filled the area at 
the left to the lagoon. Together they moved 
ahead in a skirmis h line, all other elements 
being in reserve. 31 [Map 7) 

At 0700 artillery on Ukiangong Point 
commenced shelling the East Tank Barrier, 
while Company A and Detachment Z, 
105th Infantry, withdrew. From then until 
0820 artillery fired a total of almost 900 
rounds. The 3d Battalion's line moved 
swiftly ahead across the area taken on the 
previous afternoon but abandoned during 
the night. At 0820, as the artillery prepara- 
tion was lifted, the tanks and infantry 
moved against the enemy. By 0915 the first 
250 yards had been traversed with only 
light opposition, but resistance became 
more stubborn as the forces reached the 
road running south from Stone Pier. 32 

The first mission of the tanks was to 
shell the buildings ahead of them while the 
infantry grenaded surface installations and 
small shelters. The infantry-tank tactics 
that had been developed in the two pre- 
ceding days for the reduction of large 
shelters were employed. As the infantry 
approached air raid shelters, tanks opened 



27 27th Inf Div G-3 Msg File, 21 Nov 43, Msg 34. 

28 27th Inf Div G-2 Jnl, 22 Nov 43, Serial 10. 

29 27th Inf Div G-3 Msg File, 22 Nov 43, Msgs 8, 9, 
10,17,19,27. 

30 Marshall, Makin Notes, p. DDI. 

31 Baxter, Armored Force Action on Makin, p. 16; 
Interv, 1st Lt Vernal E. Edlund, Marshall Intervs, pp. 
66-68. 

32 27th Inf Div G-3 Msg File, 22 Nov 43, Msgs 11, 
14, 16; Marshall, Makin Notes, p. EE11; 105th FA Bn 
Makin Rpt, pp. 6-7, KCRC. 



MAKIN TAKEN 



119 



up with their 75-mm. guns, knocking the 
shelters out as the infantry line continued 
on. Surface structures and smaller shelters 
were disposed of with hand grenades. 33 

At the ocean end of the Stone Pier road, 
and along the shore east of it, Company K 
came upon a series of rifle pits and ma- 
chine gun nests with one 70-mm. howitzer 
position, all abandoned by the enemy. 34 
At 0945, as the barrier defenses came 
within range of the tanks, field artillery 
resumed its fire, first on the clearing and 
then to the east of it. After twenty-five 
minutes the shelling from Ukiangong 
Point ceased. 35 The 105th Field Artillery 
Battalion then began moving forward to 
a new position closer to the front while 
tanks and troops entered the zone just 
shelled. 36 

With the 3d Battalion's attack moving 
steadily eastward, Colonel Hart, as pre- 
viously planned, sent a special detachment 
to cut off the enemy from retreat to the 
eastern end of Butaritari. For this mission 
two reinforced platoons of Company A, 
which had only that morning been re- 
lieved from its position in the line, were 
sent with additional reinforcement of one 
section of light machine guns and one pla- 
toon of heavy machine guns from Com- 
pany D. This detail, under command of 
Captain O'Brien, embarked at 1 100 in six 
LVT's on a three-mile run across the 
lagoon to a point on the north shore well 
to the east of the East Tank Barrier. 
Around noon Captain O'Brien's men 
landed without opposition and set up a 
line across the island. Ten natives encoun- 
tered near the beach informed the captain 
that the remaining Japanese were fleeing 
eastward across the reef to Kuma. 37 

The longer U.S. amphibious move to 
Kuma Island was made by a detail under 
Major Bradt. This group, in ten LVT's, 



was guided to Kuma by Major Herzog, 
who had reconnoitered that island the day 
before. At 1400 nine of the amphtracks 
landed without opposition in the vicinity 
of Keuea, about a mile from the south- 
western tip of the island. The enemy on 
Butaritari was now entirely cut off from 
retreat. 38 

Meanwhile, tanks and infantry were 
moving upon and through the East Tank 
Barrier. Although more heavily fortified 
than the West Tank Barrier, this strong de- 
fensive system offered no opposition what- 
ever. The enemy had apparently aban- 
doned the barrier during the night. Only 
a few dead Japanese were found, evidently 
killed by earlier bombardment, in the 
barrier system. 39 

The Advance Beyond the East Tank 
Barrier 

After passing through the tank barrier 
system, troops of the 3d Battalion did not 
pause, but pushed eastward. Tanks were 
operating 200 to 300 yards east of the bar- 
rier in the barracks area between the high- 
way and the lagoon as early as 1042. Two 
hours later, while men from Company A 
were forming a line across the island neck, 
tanks had reached a clearing about 800 
yards short of that line, and the two forces 
were in communication. 40 

33 Marshall, Makin Notes, p. DDI. 

34 Interv, Lt Edlund, Marshall Intervs, pp. 66-68. 

35 Marshall, Makin Notes, p. EE1 1. 

36 27th Inf Div G-3 Periodic Rpt 3, p. 1. 

37 27th Inf Div G-3 Msg File, 22 Nov 43, Msgs 8, 9, 
10, 17, 19; Interv, Capt O'Brien, Marshall Intervs, pp. 
22-23. 

38 27th Inf Div G-3 Msg File, 22 Nov 43, Msgs 2, 
20, 27. 

39 Marshall, Makin Notes, p. DDI. 

40 V Phib Corps Galvanic Rpt, Incl F, Rpt by Spe- 
cial Staff Officers, Sec. I, Air Officer's Rpt, Incl A, 
p. 10; 27th Inf Div G-2 Msg File, 22 Nov 43, Msg 185; 
27th Inf Div G-3 Msg File, 22 Nov 43, Msg 28; Interv, 
Capt O'Brien, Marshall Intervs, pp. 22-23. 




MAP 7 




SECURING MAKIN 

22-23 Novsmbar 1943 
mrmm Front line, due i*o<C4teo 
moo o jooo 



122 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



It was believed that the Japanese re- 
maining between these two forces would 
be trapped. In fact, no such event took 
place. By the time the 3d Battalion had 
reached Company A's barricade line at 
1330, they had encountered no opposition. 
Either the enemy remnants had evaded 
discovery or had slipped east of the island's 
neck before noon when Company A had 
landed from its LVT's. The only sign of life 
in that area occurred shortly after the 
junction of forces when about three hun- 
dred natives emerged to be taken under 
custody by the American soldiers and es- 
corted outside of the line of advance. After 
a short rest the 3d Battalion pressed for- 
ward again, while the Company A pla- 
toons and their attached units went to the 



rear. 



At this point General Ralph Smith, in 
pursuance of the original plans, assumed 
full command of the island forces at 15 10. 42 ~ 
Shortly thereafter he was ordered to re- 
embark the 1st and 2d Battalions, all 
medium tanks, all except five light tanks, 
and all naval gunfire and air liaison par- 
ties the next morning (23 November). 43 

Beyond the narrow neck of the island 
where they had joined forces with the 
Company A detachment, the 3d Battalion 
advanced some 2,100 yards, stopping 
about 1645. With Company I on the right, 
Company K on the left, and Company L 
in the rear, the battalion dug in for the 
night in perimeter defense. 44 

Ahead lay about 5,000 yards of Butari- 
tari Island still unsecured by the attack- 
ing forces. The escape of any enemy that 
might remain in that area across the reef 
to Kuma was barred by Major Bradt's de- 
tachment on that island. From his posi- 
tions at the southwestern end of Kuma he 
could effectively cover any crossing and in 
fact did repulse two enemy attempts to 



land on Kuma during the night. 45 

The day's activity had been easy, except 
for the heat and the tangled tropical 
growth through which the 3d Battalion 
had had to advance. Enemy resistance in 
the area of the East Tank Barrier and east- 
ward had been nominal. At the day's end 
Admiral Turner announced the capture of 
Makin "though with minor resistance re- 
maining" and congratulated General 
Ralph Smith and his troops. All that 
seemed to remain was to mop up a now 
thoroughly disorganized enemy trapped in 
the extreme northeastern tip of Butari- 
tari. 46 

The Last Night 

After a wearisome but generally unop- 
posed day's advance, the 3d Battalion dug 
in in a series of separate company perim- 
eters, stretching across the width of the 
island in a line of about 300 yards in 
length. 47 At the north Company I covered 
the lagoon shore, the main highway, and 
about one half of the island's width. In an 
oval clearing in the center of the island 
two small ponds intervened between Com- 
pany I and Company K, which set up a 
perimeter covering the distance from there 
to the ocean shore. West of these two com- 
panies in a long, narrow oval running all 
the way across the island was Company L, 
facing west. Spaced along this entire posi- 
tion were the light machine guns of the 
various company weapons platoons, and 



41 Marshall, Makin Notes, p. DDI; Interv, Capt 
O'Brien, Marshall Intervs, pp. 22-23. 

42 27th Inf Div G-3 Msg File, 22 Nov 43, Msg 29. 
" Ibid., Msg 32. 

44 3d Bn 165th RCT Combined Jnl, 22 Nov 43, 
Serial 33. 

45 27th Inf Div G-3 Msg File, 23 Nov 43, Msg 3. 

46 Ibid., 22 Nov 43, Msg 36. 

47 This account is derived, except when noted, from 
Marshall, Makin Notes, pp. DDI -DDI 3. 



MAKIN TAKEN 



123 



the heavy machine guns of Company M. 
The battalion antitank guns were placed 
at the point where the lines of defensive 
positions crossed the highway. One pair 
faced to the west along the road while the 
second pair faced to the east. The two anti- 
tank gun batteries were covered by heavy 
machine guns of the antitank platoon and 
a few riflemen. The men from Company 
M covered their own guns, while riflemen 
from the three rifle companies protected 
the remainder. 

No very serious effort was made to 
establish a strong perimeter. No thorough 
reconnaissance of the ground just ahead 
was made, although about an hour and a 
half elapsed between the time the battal- 
ion began to dig in (1645) and sunset 
(1818) and another hour and a quarter re- 
mained before total darkness set in 
(1931). 48 During the heat of the day's 
activity most of the men had dropped their 
packs to the rear, including their entrench- 
ing tools. Foxholes were therefore shal- 
lower than usual. In some cases men did 
not even bother with them. Instead, they 
dragged coconut logs into place and built 
themselves barricades above ground. The 
truth is that very few, if any, of either of- 
ficers or men entertained serious notions 
that there was much danger from the 
remnant of Japanese facing them. This 
opinion was most succinctly expressed by 
1st Lt. Robert Wilson who later said, 
"Many of us had the idea there were no 
Japs left; when the firing began, I didn't 
believe it was the real thing." 49 

The first effort of the enemy to penetrate 
the perimeter occurred shortly after dark. 
Following close on the heels of a party of 
natives who had safely made their way 
into the American lines, a group of Japa- 
nese advanced close to the line, imitating 
baby cries as they came. The ruse was 



recognized by a member of the engineer 
detachment, who opened fire with his ma- 
chine gun killing about ten Japanese. 
Thereafter until dawn, the night was 
broken by intermittent fire fights, infiltra- 
tions, and individual attacks on the Amer- 
ican positions. 

This was no organized counterattack or 
banzai charge such as occurred later on 
Saipan. Rather, it was a series of unco- 
ordinated small unit, sometimes individ- 
ual, fights. In an effort to unnerve the 
Americans, the Japanese periodically set 
up a tom-tom-like beating all over the 
front of the perimeter. Periodically, also, 
they would yell or sing, apparently under 
the influence of sake. 50 They came on 
sometimes in groups and sometimes singly. 
A number of them filtered into the Amer- 
ican lines, and their fire engaged the 
perimeter from both sides. The brunt of 
the attack fell on a few machine gun and 
heavy weapons positions that were cover- 
ing the front from the right and left of the 
line. To the crews of these weapons the at- 
tack naturally appeared formidable in- 
deed. Actually, although from three to 
four hundred men of the battalion were 
under Japanese mortar, machine gun, 
rifle, and grenade fire from time to time, 
the enemy onslaught broke and disinte- 
grated around these relatively few positions 
held down by the heavy weapons and ma- 
chine guns on the front. Those who were 
only slightly to the rear of the guns were 
in the position of uneasy onlookers, bound 
by the character of the defense to take 
relatively little hand in the repulse given 
the enemy. 

48 TF 54 Opn Plan A2-43, 23 Oct 43, Annex B, p. 
43 (sunrise-sunset tables, Makin). 

49 Marshall, Makin Notes, p. DD9. 

50 Recently emptied bottles and canteens, which 
had apparently contained this liquor, were reported 
discovered the following morning. 



124 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



When daylight finally came it was ap- 
parent that the night's attack had been 
both less massive and less deadly than it 
had seemed while it was going on. Fifty- 
one enemy dead were counted in front of 
American guns, although more were later 
found east of these positions. Some or all 
of these may have been wounded during 
the night's activity and dragged them- 
selves away from the perimeter to die. 
American casualties for the night came to 
three killed and twenty-five wounded. 51 

A few of the enemy also had tried to 
escape from Butaritari over the reef to 
Kuma. At midnight about ten came upon 
the defense line set up by Major Bradt's 
detail from the 105th Infantry and were 
either killed or wounded while making an 
effort to cross it. Unless some had previ- 
ously escaped beyond Kuma to the other 
northern islets of the atoll, the last rem- 
nants of the original Japanese forces were 
destined to be pinched off on 23 Novem- 
ber, D plus 3. 52 

Mop- Up 

The sixty-odd Japanese killed during 
the night represented the bulk of the re- 
maining enemy soldiers on Butaritari. All 
that was left to be secured was the eastern 
extremity of the island, including Tan- 
imaiaki Village, and the few scattered 
enemy left here were mostly labor troops 
and airmen. 

The American attack was launched at 
0715 with Company I in the advance. As 
many men as possible rode on the five light 
and sixteen medium tanks that had been 
sent up earlier to spearhead the drive. Be- 
hind them, Company K on the left and 
Company L on the right formed a skirmish 
line across the island. Still farther to the 
rear came the men of Company B from the 



1st Battalion, as reserve support. With the 
left flank rode a special detail equipped 
with loudspeakers through which nisei in- 
terpreters were to broadcast appeals for 
surrender to whatever enemy troops might 
be left in Tanimaiaki Village. About 1015 
it was discovered that some Japanese had 
moved across the rear of the advance unit 
and cut its wire. Colonel Marshall, who 
was in temporary command of the nisei 
detail, was ordered to return to the rear 
with a message requesting Colonel Mc- 
Donough to get his support element for- 
ward. As his jeep started back from the 
front line it ran into an ambush that the 
Japanese had set up for about 300 yards 
along the road, somewhat more than a 
half a mile to the rear. At that point a sup- 
port element making its way forward ar- 
rived on the scene and cleared out the am- 
bush in a short, sharp fight. This was the 
last tactical encounter on Makin. 53 

By 1030 advanced elements of the 3d 
Battalion had reached the tip of Butaritari, 
and organized resistance was declared to 
be over. 54 Only a few Japanese had been 
encountered on the way and these had 
been quickly silenced. An hour later Gen- 
eral Smith radioed to Admiral Turner, 
"Makin Taken! Recommend command 
pass to Commander Garrison Force." 55 
Except for minor mopping-up activities, 
the operation was over. 

At 1400 the 2d Battalion under Colonel 
McDonough started to board Pierce from 
Red Beach 2. 56 At 1630 Admiral Turner 
ordered General Smith to turn over com- 

51 27th Inf Div G-3 Msg File, 23 Nov 43, Msg 9. 

52 Marshall, Makin Notes, pp. Fl 1-F12. 

53 27th Inf Div G-3 Msg File, 23 Nov 43, Msg 9; 
Marshall, Makin Notes, pp. DD14-DD15; Ltr, 
S. L. A. Marshall to Dr. Kent Roberts Greenfield, 2 
Apr 52, p. 8, OCMH. 

54 27th Inf Div G-3 Msg File, 23 Nov 43, Msg 18. 

55 Ibid., Msg 19. 

56 27th Inf Div G-4Jnl, p. 10. 



MAKIN TAKEN 



125 



mand of the island to the garrison force 
commander, Col. Clesen H. Tenney, the 
following day at 0800. 57 From 1900 to 
2 120 that evening and again during the 
next morning, the 27th Division staff and 
the improvised staff of Colonel Tenney 
conferred. It was decided to leave on the 
island a considerable quantity of commu- 
nications equipment already in operation, 
with the personnel to operate it. All the 
LVT's were left, and with them a Navy 
boat pool of nine officers and 1,943 en- 
listed men. Many of the trucks, bulldozers, 
and jeeps were also to remain. 58 

During the morning Major Mahoney's 
1st Battalion went aboard Calvert, while 
other detachments embarked on other 
transports. At noon the special detail re- 
turned from Kuma and began to board 
Leonard Wood, following the headquarters 
staff. 59 The 3d Battalion under Colonel 
Hart was left behind to assist and protect 
the construction forces. Also remaining for 
the time being on the island were Battery 
C, 105th Field Artillery; one platoon of 
Company C, 193d Tank Battalion; the 
LVT detachment from Headquarters 
Company, 193d Tank Battalion; the Col- 
lecting Platoon and the Clearing Com- 
pany and surgical team, 102d Medical 
Battalion; Company C, 102d Engineers; 
the 152d Engineers; Batteries K and L, 
93d Coast Artillery (AA); Batteries A, B, 
C, and D, 98th Coast Artillery (AA); and 
the Intelligence and Reconnaissance Pla- 
toon, 165th Infantry. 60 

The remainder of the troops that had 
fought on Butaritari were boated and 
ready to sail by noon of 24 November. A 
short delay caused by the report of nearby 
enemy planes held up the convoy until 
1400, but at that time the ships finally 
shoved off for the more inviting shores of 
Oahu. 61 The capture of Makin was history. 



Profit and Loss 

Reckoned in terms of the casualties sus- 
tained by the 27th Division, the seizure of 
Makin at first glance appears to have been 
cheap. Total battle casualties came to 218, 
of which 58 were killed in action and 8 
died of wounds. Of the 152 wounded in 
action and the 35 who suffered nonbattle 
casualties, 57 were returned to duty while 
action was going on. 62 At the end of the 
fighting, enemy casualties were estimated 
to come to 550 including 105 prisoners of 
war, all but one of whom were labor 
troops. 63 Later mopping-up activities ac- 
counted for still more, and in the end the 
total enemy garrison, none of whom es- 
caped, was either captured or killed. Thus, 
a total of about 300 combat troops and 
500 laborers was accounted for at Makin. 64 

In view of the tremendous superiority of 
American ground forces to those of the 
enemy and the comparatively weak state 
of Japanese defenses, the ratio of American 
combat casualties to those of Japanese 
combat troops was remarkably high — 
about two to three. In other words, for 
every three Japanese fighters killed, two 
Americans were either killed or wounded. 
Thus the cost of taking Makin was not 
quite so low as it had first seemed. 

Naval casualties incident to the capture 
of Butaritari were much higher than those 
of the ground forces. During the prelimi- 

57 27th Inf Div G-3 Msg File, 23 Nov 43, Msg 38. 

58 27th Inf Div G-4Jnl, Min of Conf, 23 Nov 43. 

59 USS Calvert Action Rpt, 28 Nov 43; USS Leonard 
Wood Action Rpt, 20 Dec 43. 

60 27th Inf Div G-3 Msg File, 24 Nov 43, Msg 26; 
USAFICPA Participation Rpt Galvanic, pp. 17-18. 

61 27th Inf Div G-4Jnl, p. 11; 27th Inf Div G-2Jnl, 
24 Nov 43, Serial 9, 11. 

62 USAFICPA Participation Rpt Galvanic, Annex 
X, Tables I and IV. 

63 27th Inf Div G-2 Periodic Rpt 5. 

64 See above, p. 7 1 . 



126 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



nary naval bombardment on 20 Novem- 
ber, the battleship Mississippi had a turret 
explosion resulting in the death of forty- 
three men and the wounding of nineteen 
others. More important was the sinking of 
the escort carrier Liscome Bay. On the 
morning of 24 November she was operat- 
ing about twenty miles southwest of Bu- 
taritari in company with two other escort 
carriers, all under command of Rear Adm. 
Henry M. Mullinix, USN. At 0513 Liscome 
Bay was hit admidship by one or more tor- 
pedoes fired from an undetected enemy 
submarine. Her bombs and ammunition 
exploded and within twenty-three minutes 
she sank. Fifty-three officers, including 
Admiral Mullinix, and 591 enlisted men 
were lost and many others seriously 
wounded and burned. 65 

This sinking, occurring on D plus 4, 
gave point to an argument repeatedly put 
forth in naval circles that in amphibious 
operations time was of the essence, that 
ground operations prolonged beyond the 
time compelled by absolute necessity con- 



stituted an unacceptable risk to naval ship- 
ping and to the lives of naval personnel. 
Liscome Bay when torpedoed was standing 
by to furnish air cover for Admiral Turner's 
attack force on its voyage back to Oahu. 
Had the capture of Makin been conducted 
more expeditiously, she would have de- 
parted the danger area before 24 Novem- 
ber, the morning of the disaster. 

General Holland Smith was later of the 
opinion that the capture of Makin was 
"infuriatingly slow." 66 Considering the 
size of the atoll, the nature of the enemy's 
defenses, and the great superiority of force 
enjoyed by the attacking troops, his criti- 
cism seems justified. It is all the more so 
when to the cost of tardiness is added the 
loss of a valuable escort aircraft carrier 
with more than half the hands aboard. 



65 Samuel Eliot Morison, HISTORY OF UNITED 
STATES NAVAL OPERATIONS IN WORLD 
WAR II, Vol. VII, Aleutians, Gilberts, and Marshalls, 
June 1942- April 1944 (Boston: Little, Brown and Com- 
pany, 1951), pp. 140-41. 

66 Smith, Coral and Brass, p. 125. 



CHAPTER IX 



The Capture of Tarawa 



The seizure of Makin by the Northern 
Attack Force had proceeded with relative 
ease. The Southern Attack Force, com- 
manded by Admiral Hill, which had the 
mission of capturing Tarawa, was faced 
with a numerically stronger and far better 
prepared enemy. 1 The landing force con- 
sisted of the 2d Marine Division less the 
6th Marine Regiment, the latter originally 
being held in corps reserve for employ- 
ment at either Makin or Tarawa. The di- 
vision was commanded by General Julian 
Smith. His plan of attack called for the 
original assault landings to be made on the 
three westernmost beaches of the northern 
(lagoon) shore of Betio Island at the south- 
western corner of the atoll. These landing 
beaches were designated, from west to east, 
Red Beaches 1, 2, and 3. The attack was 
to be made by three battalion landing 
teams under command of Col. David M. 
Shoup, commander of the 2d Marine 
Regimental Combat Team. The first three 
assault waves were to be carried from 
ship to shore in amphibian tractors, of 
which 125 had been made available to 
the division. Tanks would be boated in the 
fourth wave in LCM's, and the successive 
waves of infantry would be carried by 
standard personnel landing craft 
(LCVP's). One battalion of the 2d Ma- 
rines was to be held in regimental reserve, 
and two battalions of the 8th Marines 
would be in division reserve. 2 (Map IV) 

The Americans were opposed at Tarawa 



by an enemy garrison whose combat 
strength ran upward of 3,000 well-trained 
men. Most of these troops were concen- 
trated on Betio Island. For about nine 
months fortifications along the island's 
perimeter and obstacles in the water ap- 
proaches had been in process of construc- 
tion. By 20 November 1943, the date of 
the invasion, Betio bristled with guns of all 
calibers, well protected in emplacements 
of steel, concrete, and thick coconut logs. 3 

Preliminaries to the Invasion 

On 7 November most of the ships of Ad- 
miral Hill's Southern Attack Force (Task 
Force 53) had assembled at Efate for last- 
minute rehearsals. The 2d Marine Divi- 
sion had arrived in transports from Wel- 
lington, New Zealand, and Rear Adm. 
Howard F. Kingman had brought the sup- 
porting combat ships from Pearl Harbor. 
Following rehearsals and critiques, the 
force sailed for Betio on 13 November. 4 

Shortly after 2330 on 19 November the 



1 It is impossible in this volume, which is primarily 
a history of Army operations, to give to the capture 
of Tarawa the detailed attention that the compara- 
tive size and nature of the operation would otherwise 
warrant. For a fully detailed and accurate account of 
the capture of Tarawa see Stockman, Tarawa. This is 
the official Marine Corps account of the operation, 
published by the Historical Section, Division of Public 
Information, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps. 

2 See above, p. 43. 

1 See above, pp. 70-74. 
4 Stockman, Tarawa, p. 9. 



128 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 




convoy entered the seventeen-mile-wide 
channel between Maiana and Tarawa 
Atolls and, on reaching the open sea west 
of the atolls, swung north. The ships now 
moved directly to assume their station 
west of Betio. At 0356 the first transport 
began to lower its boats; the others fol- 
lowed within a few minutes. With the ap- 
proach of daylight at 0550, it became ap- 
parent that the transports were too far to 
the south. The error, made because of a 
heavy southward current and the inaccu- 
racy of the charts, brought the transports 
within range of the enemy's coastal guns 
on Betio. 5 

Japanese patrol planes had spotted the 
convoy on the 19th if not earlier, and 
therefore by D Day the enemy had had 
time to man his defensive positions. 6 Shortly 



after 0200 on 20 November the approach- 
ing convoy had been detected, evidently by 
radar, and the Japanese had made their 
final preparations for defense. They held 
fire until the vessels halted and prepara- 
tions for landing were begun. 7 At 0441 the 
island commander, Admiral Shibasaki, 
ordered a red star cluster fired over Betio 
Island, the signal for the garrison to pre- 
pare to fire. Twenty-six minutes later a 
coastal battery on the western end of Betio 
opened up. 8 

5 TF 53 Rpt of Tarawa Opns, 13 Dec 43, Incl A, 
p. 9. 

fi CINCPAC-CINCPOA Translation 10018. 

7 Army Section, Imperial GHQj Special Report on 
Lessons from the War, Vol. 25, Military Action in the 
Gilbert Islands Area, Nov 43, p. 3. (Translation in 
OCMH.) 

8 TF 53 Rpt of Tarawa Opns, 13 Dec 43, Incl A, 
p. 30. 



THE CAPTURE OF TARAWA 



129 



The first Japanese shells landing in the 
midst of the American transports caused 
little damage. American warships returned 
fire immediately. The first salvo from the 
battleship Colorado was away at 0507, fol- 
lowed almost at once by shells of other 
support vessels including Admiral Hill's 
flagship Maryland. Within a short time one 
enemy gun was reported destroyed and its 
magazine exploded in a great cloud of fire. 
Other direct hits were believed scored soon 
afterwards. As U.S. naval gunfire grew in 
intensity, the Japanese were forced to take 
cover with resultant lack of accuracy. 9 

By 0542 the action of the naval gunfire 
support ships had neutralized, to some ex- 
tent, Japanese attempts to halt the debar- 
kation. The warships then ceased in order 
to allow the planes to begin their dawn air 
strike as planned. The planes, however, 
failed to arrive on schedule and with no 
naval gunfire to harass them, the enemy 
batteries resumed full fire and for thirty 
minutes peppered the transport area with 
shells. One transport after another re- 
ported near misses. Finally, at 0605, Ad- 
miral Hill ordered the fire support ships to 
reopen fire. Eight minutes later the planes 
arrived over the target for the scheduled 
air strike on the beaches. This lasted until 
0622. 10 

Meanwhile, it had become apparent 
that the transports would have to move 
north out of range of the coastal batteries 
and the move was undertaken at 0619, 
being carried out during the period of the 
resumed naval gunfire and the air strikes. 
At approximately the same time Admiral 
Hill announced that W Hour, the sched- 
uled time for the prelanding naval bom- 
bardment, would be at 0620. 11 

While the transports were making their 
way to safer berths, two mine sweepers, 
Pursuit and Requisite, moved toward the 



entrance of the Tarawa lagoon. Close 
astern came two escorting destroyers, Ring- 
gold and Dashiell, which were to take up 
fire support positions inside the lagoon 
once the entrance had been swept for 
mines. Following closely behind the de- 
stroyers were several small landing craft 
equipped with smoke pots designed to con- 
ceal the movements of the first waves as 
they crossed the line of departure. As Pur- 
suit, which was in the lead, neared the 
lagoon entrance, shore batteries turned 



9 Ibid. 

10 Ibid.; 2d Marine Div Special Action Rpt Tarawa, 
13 Jan 44, pp. 4-5. 

Admiral Turner has offered as a possible explana- 
tion for the delay in the air strike the following: Ac- 
cording to the original Air plan issued on 23 October, 
the dawn air strikes at both Makin and Tarawa were 
to begin at 0545 and end at 0615. Later, the Air rep- 
resentatives on the various naval staffs objected to such 
an early strike because their experience had demon- 
strated that shortly before sunrise airplane pilots, 
themselves high up in sunshine and thus good targets, 
could not distinguish their own individual targets 
hidden in the darkness below. Hence, on 5 November 
it was agreed by all the principal commanders present 
at the rehearsals of Task Force 52 in the Hawaiian 
area that the air strike should be postponed from 0545 
until 0610. Admiral Pownall, in command of the car- 
rier task force, was informed of this change of plan and 
in fact his pilots came in at Tarawa only three min- 
utes late according to the revised schedule. Admiral 
Hill was at Efate when the revised plan was decided 
upon, and it is apparent that he was not aware of the 
change. Admiral Turner suggests one of three possi- 
bilities to explain the failure of co-ordination of the 
dawn strike at Tarawa: (a) either Turner's staff did 
not send the change in plan to Hill; or (b) due to a 
failure in fast mail or radio communications, Hill did 
not receive the change; or (c) having received the 
change, Hill's staff failed to act on it. (Ltr, Adm 
Turner to Gen Ward, 12 Feb 52, Incl 1, p. 12.) When 
interviewed, Admiral Hill was unable to throw fur- 
ther light on this subject (Interv, Philip A. Crowl with 
Vice Adm Harry W. Hill, 9 Apr 52), nor do the 
records consulted help to solve the mystery. At any 
rate, if Admiral Turner's conjecture is sound, the avi- 
ators of Task Force 50 must be absolved from blame 
in delivering their dawn strike later than was 
expected. 

11 TF 53 Rpt of Tarawa Opns, 13 Dec 43, Incl A, 
p. 31. 



130 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



their attention to this little vessel. Water- 
spouts rose in the air as shells landed near- 
by. Aboard the mine sweeper, machine 
guns and heavier weapons returned fire, 
and Ringgold and Dashiell joined with their 
5-inch guns. At 0646 Pursuit pushed 
through the entrance channel. No mines 
were found, and at 07 15 the mine sweeper 
took position as control vessel at the line of 
departure inside the lagoon. Still returning 
fire, the vessel swung to face the lagoon 
entrance. Behind it dense clouds of dust 
and smoke obscured the island and hung 
low over the water. To make certain that 
the line of departure would be clearly 
marked, Pursuit turned on her searchlight. 
The vessel still had suffered no serious 
damage. 12 

The two destroyers pushed into the 
lagoon a few minutes behind the mine 
sweepers and immediately came under 
heavy fire. 13 Ringgold started firing with all 
batteries as soon as she was inside the reef 
line. At 07 1 1 she suffered a direct hit from 
a 5-inch gun, the shell entering the after 
engine room, completely disrupting the 
water, steam, and electricity supply to the 
after part of the ship. Moments later an- 
other shell glanced offthe barrel of a for- 
ward torpedo tube, passing through sick 
bay and into the emergency radio room. 
The ship continued to maneuver in spite of 
the damage, trying to locate the larger 
weapons that were firing on the ships inside 
the lagoon. 14 

While the fire support vessels were mov- 
ing to the lagoon, the first waves of am- 
phibian tractors and landing craft began 
their move from the rendezvous areas 
toward the line of departure inside the 
lagoon. It soon became apparent that they 
would be late in arriving. The LVT's had 
to contend with choppy seas, a strong head 
wind, and a receding tide. Furthermore, 



many of the vehicles were in poor mechani- 
cal condition. 15 

Pursuit, which had begun to track the 
landing waves by radar, reported that they 
were approximately forty minutes behind 
schedule. 16 Fifteen minutes later, further 
reports showed that only a little over 500 
yards had been traversed. In the air above, 
observation planes gave various estimates 
of the distance to be traveled to the beaches 
and the probable times of landing. There 
were many discrepancies in the reports, 
but all agreed that the landings would be 
late. As a result, Admiral Hill notified all 
vessels and troop commanders at 0803 that 
H Hour would be delayed until 0845. 
Twenty minutes later it was changed once 
more — to 0900. These messages, however, 
failed to reach the fighter planes that were 
scheduled to strafe the beaches immedi- 
ately before the first troops landed. Oper- 
ating on the assumption that H Hour was 
still 0830 the planes started their strafing 
mission at 0825, and naval fire had to lift 
until the planes had cleared from the 
area. 17 

Even this much of a delay proved overly 
optimistic. In fact, the first amphibian 
tractor to touch the beach did not arrive 
until 0910. Although the mine sweeper 
Pursuit and one observation plane had 
already reported that 0900 was too early 
by at least fifteen minutes to expect the 
first touchdown, Admiral Hill neverthe- 
less ordered all naval gunfire, except for 
that of two destroyers, to cease by 0855. 

12 Ibid.; CINCPAC-CINCPOA Opns in POA, Nov 
43, Annex E, p. 10. 

13 USS Ringgold Action Rpt, 21 Oct 43-2 Dec 43, 
pp. 9-10. 

14 Ibid. 

15 CINCPAC-CINCPOA Opns in POA, Nov 43, 
Annex E, p. 11. 

16 USS Pursuit Action Rpt, 6 Dec 43, p. 4. 

17 TF 53 Rpt of Tarawa Opns, 13 Dec 43, Incl A, 
p. 32. 



THE CAPTURE OF TARAWA 



131 




WESTERN END OF BETIO AFTER BOMBARDMENT. Open area in right center 
is the end of the airstrip runway. Red Beach 1 is shown in upper right. Note coastal fortifications 
in foreground. 



He reasoned that to continue naval fire 
through the heavy smoke that lay over the 
lagoon was too risky to the assault troops as 
they moved toward shore. Planes came in 
again for a five-minute strike at 0855, but 
from 0900 until 0910, except on Red Beach 
3 at which two destroyers were still firing, 
the Japanese were left unhampered to re- 
inforce their beach positions and direct 
accurate fire of all types on the approach- 
ing vehicles. 18 

What had been the effect of all this terri- 
ble pounding of Betio from air and ship on 
the morning of the landing? A total of 
about 3,000 tons of naval projectiles alone 
had been thrown against the enemy in the 
four hours before the first troops touched 
down. 19 From the point of view of one ob- 



server, Admiral Kingman, who com- 
manded the fire support group responsible 
for the island's bombardment, "it seemed 
almost impossible for any human being to 
be alive on Betio." 20 

This of course proved to be an illusion, 
as the marines ashore were soon to discover 
to their sorrow. Yet certain concrete results 
can be attributed to the preliminary bom- 
bardment. At least one 8-inch coast defense 
battery and two 1 20-mm. antiaircraft bat- 
teries were silenced by naval gunfire after 
receiving direct hits. Everything above 
ground or in open pits, such as personnel, 

~ 8 Ibid. ~ 

19 V Phib Corps Galvanic Rpt, Incl F, Sec. II, p. 2. 

20 TG 53.4 (Fire Support Group) Action Rpt, 17-22 
Nov 43, p. 2. 



132 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



bombs, and trucks, was probably de- 
stroyed. Camouflage screens over dugouts 
and bombproof shelters were wiped away. 
Most important was the fact that Shiba- 
saki's network of telephone wire, most of 
which was laid above ground, was to all 
intents and purposes obliterated, and his 
system of signal communications was com- 
pletely paralyzed. 21 

However, even this destruction was not 
enough. Along the beaches there were 
many pillboxes of concrete, coconut logs, 
and steel, most of which were not de- 
stroyed. 22 On Red Beaches 2 and 3 there 
were at least five machine guns manned 
and firing at the troops as they advanced 
over the reef toward the shore. As Admiral 
Hill put it, "that was five too many." 23 To 
the marines who led the assault on Betio 
without any armor heavier than their hel- 
mets and the shirts on their backs, this was 
a gross understatement. 

The Landings on Red Beach 1 

The 3d Battalion, 2d Marines, which 
was to land on Red Beach 1, had placed 
two companies in the first three waves of 
LVT's. Company K was to land on the left 
of the battalion zone, while Company I, on 
the right, was to touch down on the ex- 
treme northwest corner of the island. Each 
was to be supported by elements of the 
heavy weapons unit, Company M. The 
third rifle company of the battalion, Com- 
pany L, was boated in the fourth and fifth 
waves along with the mortar platoon of 
Company M. Maj. John F. Schoettel, bat- 
talion commander, was with the fourth 
wave. 24 

Red Beach 1 presented the only irregu- 
lar shore line on Betio Island, a deep cove 
indenting the island just east of its western 
tip. The boundary between the zone of 



action of the 3d Battalion and the 2d Bat- 
talion, 2d Marines, just east of it, lay 
almost at the point where the shore line 
straightened out to sweep in a fairly regu- 
lar line toward the island tail. All along the 
reaches of Red Beach 1 lay a coconut log 
barricade, erected as an obstacle over 
which invading troops must crawl. The 
barricade was separated from the water on 
the western half of the beach by approxi- 
mately twenty yards of coral sand. On the 
east the beach was much narrower, and in 
most places the water lapped at the base of 
the logs. High tide would cover all of the 
beach strip within the cove. 

The amphibian tractors of the 3d Bat- 
talion were the first by two or three min- 
utes to land on Betio Island. As they 
reached the reef and clambered over it 
they met heavy fire from machine guns and 
antiboat weapons. The LVT's had been 
under scattered fire since leaving the line 
of departure, but the volume that fell upon 
the tractors as they waddled over the reef 
toward the beach was so heavy that it 
caused considerable disorganization in the 
three waves. The principal source of enemy 
fire seemed to be one large emplacement 
at the left extremity of Red Beach 1 , be- 
tween it and Red Beach 2. The Japanese 
here were in a position to rake the entire 
approach formation. By the time the ini- 
tial wave climbed out of the water at 0910, 
casualties in Company K were already so 
great as to make it extremely doubtful 
whether that unit could establish a foot- 
hold on the shore. 

21 TF 53 Rpt of Tarawa Opns, 13 Dec 43, Incl A, 
p. 48. 

22 V Phib Corps Galvanic Rpt, Incl F, Sec. II, p. 2. 

23 TF 53 Rpt of Tarawa Opns, 13 Dec 43, Incl A, 
p. 48. 

24 2d Marine Regt Rpt of Opns on Betio Island, 20- 
24 Nov 43, Incl G, Account of Tarawa Opns by 3d Bn 
2d Marines (hereafter cited as 3d Bn 2d Marine Ac- 
tion Rpt), p. 1. 



THE CAPTURE OF TARAWA 



133 




RED BEACH 1. Damaged LVT's and floating bodies testify to the ferocity of Japanese resist- 
ance at the junction of Red Beaches 1 and 2. 



In Company I, which was farther away 
from the troublesome strong point, casual- 
ties were less heavy at the outset, though 
by 1 100 both companies had sustained 50 
percent casualties. 25 The movement toward 
the island had been steady. Here and there, 
a tractor, hit and burning, was stopped 
dead in the water. If its occupants were 
alive and able to do so, they climbed over 
the sides and tried to wade ashore. From 
those vehicles that pulled up before the log 
barricade, the marines jumped to seek 
whatever cover the barricade afforded. 
Company K found itself under heavy ma- 
chine gun fire from the strong position on 
its left and the bullets sweeping up the 
narrow sand shelf kept the men's heads to 
the ground and forbade movement. Com- 
pany I found the barricade offered some 



protection from the fire. Within a few min- 
utes, the riflemen of this company began to 
infiltrate inland. As already indicated, dur- 
ing movement of the 3d Battalion toward 
the beaches LVT's had been hit and were 
either destroyed or burning. As the fourth 
wave, including some tanks, approached 
the beach, the men could see, ahead of 
them through the smoke and dust from the 
island, the disabled vehicles. 

Everywhere the lagoon was marked with 
the telltale splashes of bullets and larger 
caliber shells. The first LCM's and 
LCVP's discovered there was not enough 
water to float their landing craft beyond 
the reef line. Coxswains of some of the tank 
lighters turned their craft away, seemingly 



25 Ibid., pp. 1-2. 



134 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



in search of another more favorable land- 
ing site. The command boat came up just 
as the LCM's were turning, and Major 
Schoettel immediately ordered them to the 
beach. 26 Company L, under the command 
of Maj. Michael P. Ryan, arrived at the 
reef at this critical moment and the com- 
pany commander ordered his men into the 
water to wade ashore. 

On the beach most of Company K and 
part of Company I were drawn up before 
the log barricade. To the left of Red Beach 
1 the formidable emplacement at the bat- 
talion boundary had a clear field of fire all 
along the narrow strip of sand between the 
water and the sea wall. Company K, which 
had already suffered heavily during the 
landing, now had to lie in the exposed area 
under constant fire, incurring further casu- 
alties. Company I, which had had fewer 
losses during the ship-to-shore movement 
and on the beach, had pushed inland for 
fifty yards. Until 1100 there was little if 
any communication between the two as- 
sault companies. Company K, after being 
pinned down to the narrow sand beach, 
had finally managed to push a few men 
over the coconut barrier and to a point 
fifty yards inland from the shore, about the 
same distance as that reached by the unit 
on the right. 

More than half of Red Beach 1 was still 
in the hands of the enemy. Along the east- 
ern half, particularly at the main emplace- 
ment on the Red Beach 2 boundary, the 
Japanese were still active and causing con- 
siderable damage to troops trying to get 
ashore. Company L was severely hit while 
wading in, losing about 35 percent of its 
strength before reaching the beach on the 
west end of the island. 27 

The platoon of medium tanks attached 
to the 3d Battalion had been ordered by 
Major Schoettel to debark and the tanks 



were put into the water at the reef line, 
about 1,200 yards from dry land, while 
Company L was still struggling through 
the water toward shore. In front of them 
went the tank reconnaissance men to place 
guide flags in the potholes offshore. 

As soon as the guides entered the water, 
they were subjected to fierce fire from the 
enemy. Although the tanks came in safely 
in spite of this fire, most of the guides were 
killed or wounded. The vehicles came 
ashore on the left half of Red Beach 1, in 
the area swept most severely by Japanese 
fire. The sand was covered with the bodies 
of dead or wounded marines who could not 
yet be moved because of the intense fire. 
Rather than run the heavy tanks over these 
inert forms, the platoon commander de- 
cided to go back into the water, around to 
the extreme right flank of the beach, and 
then move inland from there. As the tanks 
executed this maneuver, four of them fell 
into potholes in the coral reef and were 
drowned out. Only two were able to make 
shore and these were shortly knocked out 
by 40-mm. gun fire. 28 

Major Schoettel had returned to the reef 
after rounding up the tank lighters and 
dispatching them to the reef's edge. The 
scene confronting him was extremely con- 
fused. The men of Company L were in the 
water and Schoettel could see most of them 
wading ashore. The heavy fire from the 
beaches was readily apparent. It was obvi- 
ously coming from the position on the 
boundary between the two beaches, and 
when the battalion commander and his 
group began to debark from their landing 
craft they were brought under the same 
fire. Faced with the choice of wading 
ashore and probably losing all of his com- 

26 Ibid., p. 2. 

27 Ibid., p. 2. 
2& Ibid., p. 3. 



fHE CAPTURE OF TARAWA 



135 




DISABLED LVT in the water at the junction of Red Beaches 1 and 2. Note shattered Ml rifle 
on the deck and tank turret showing above the water off the stern of the LVT. 



Company K that friendly troops were 
being strafed and was accordingly discon- 
tinued. 31 

Operations at Red Beach 2 

The 2d Battalion, 2d Marines, was 
scheduled to land at Red Beach 2 with 
Company F on the left and Company E on 
the right and Company G in support. 32 
Red Beach 2 extended from the eastern 
curve of the cove to Central Pier. As on 
Red Beach 1, a four- foot -high log barri- 

- 9 2d Marine Div D-3 Jnl, 19-20 Nov 43, p. 9. 
w Ibid., pp. 9-13. 

11 2d Marine Regt Unit Jnl Tarawa Opn, 20 Nov 
43, p. 2. 

32 2d Marine Regt Rpt of Opns on Betio Island, 20- 
24 Nov 43, Incl F, Summary of Tarawa Opn by 2d Bn 
2d Marines (hereafter cited as 2d Bn 2d Marines Ac- 
tion Rpt), p. 2. 



mand group or remaining on the reef 
where he could direct fire against the ene- 
my position, Schoettel chose the latter. 
Having established his command post on 
the reef and made contact with Company 
K by radio, Major Schoettel reported to 
Colonel Shoup, commander of the 2d Ma- 
rine Regimental Combat Team, who was 
located on Red Beach 2, and explained the 
situation to him. Colonel Shoup ordered 
the major to land with the fourth wave on 
Red Beach 2 and work from there onto Red 
Beach 1. Major Schoettel, however, was 
unable to get ashore until late afternoon. 29 
During the morning several requests 
were made for air strikes against the main 
beach position. 30 One air strike was even- 
tually delivered at approximately 1120, 
but immediately brought complaints from 



THE CAPTURE OF TARAWA 



137 



cade had been constructed to form a sea 
wall. For the most part the barricade lay 
about twenty yards from the water's edge, 
thus leaving a narrow open strip of deep 
coral sand over which the marines would 
have to move after leaving the water. The 
enemy had constructed pillboxes and shel- 
ters along the barricade at intervals, and 
the defenders in these positions could keep 
the narrow sand strip and its approaches 
under heavy fire. 

As the three original landing waves 
headed for Red Beach 2 they were sub- 
jected to heavy concentrated fire from all 
along the beach, the heaviest coming from 
the same positions on the boundary that 
were causing the 3d Battalion so much 
trouble on the right. 

There was no possibility of sideslipping 
out of range of the enemy's guns, although 
troops that were not mounted on LVT's 
could find some protection by wading 
ashore under Central Pier. As soon as the 
first LVT's climbed over the reef on their 
way to shore, the scene in the 2d Battalion 
zone became one of almost indescribable 
confusion. LVT's were hit by all types of 
gunfire. Some of them were disabled and 
lay helpless in the water. Crews and assault 
troops climbed over the side and waded 
toward shore. When their vehicles were hit, 
the drivers of some LVT's lost control and 
veered off course. Others, seeking vainly to 
escape the direct frontal fire, eventually 
landed on Red Beach 1. Even before the 
first waves had landed on Red Beach 2, 
reserve elements coming to the reef in 
LC VP's found that there was not enough 
water to float the small craft over the shelf. 
The men in the boats without hesitation 
leaped into the water for the long trek to 
shore. 

Company F landed on the left half of the 
beach, near the base of the pier. This unit, 



decimated on the way to shore, could do 
little more than take possession of the sand 
strip in its immediate area. Some of the 
men pushed over to the coconut log barrier 
and took cover behind it. A few others were 
able to crawl over the barrier and move 
inland, but at no point did the hold on the 
beach extend more than fifty yards inland. 
For the time being everyone was forced to 
dig in and hold the small area gained in 
landing. From hidden dugouts on either 
flank, from pillboxes just behind the bar- 
rier, and from trees just inland, the Japa- 
nese poured a merciless fire into the men 
lying in the coral sand. 33 

Once ashore, the units on Red Beach 2 
found it impossible to establish firm physi- 
cal contact. One platoon of Company E 
had landed on Red Beach 1 in an isolated 
position. The other two platoons had estab- 
lished a toe hold comparable to that seized 
by Company F, but so far toward the west- 
ern end of Red Beach 2 as to prevent co- 
ordination of the efforts of the two compa- 
nies. When Company G, the reserve, 
landed in the center of Red Beach 2, it was 
also immediately pinned down on the nar- 
row coral strip and was unable to move 
forward over the sea wall. There was no 
opportunity for the men to organize when 
they reached the beach. In little groups of 
two and three, sometimes even as individ- 
uals, they dug foxholes in the sand or 
sought shelter beneath the log barricade. 
The few men who were able to crawl over 
the retaining wall were isolated and cut 
off. 34 

Companies G and E made physical con- 
tact soon after reaching the beach, but it 
was not until late in the day that a firm 
line was formed by all three companies of 
the battalion. The complete disorganiza- 

33 Ibid., pp. 1-3. 

34 Ibid. 



138 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



tion of the troops on Red Beach 2 may be 
seen from the composition of Company F 
in the late afternoon. At that time the com- 
pany commander had under his control six 
men from Company F, sixteen from Com- 
pany E, ten from Company C, and fifteen 
from Company H. 

The 2d Battalion lost its commander, Lt. 
Col. Herbert R. Amey, during the landing. 
Approaching the reef in an LCM in the 
fourth wave, which included half of the 
battalion headquarters group and a few 
observers, and discovering that there was 
not enough water to float the lighter be- 
yond that point, Colonel Amey hailed two 
passing LVT's on their return from the 
beach. The headquarters group scrambled 
into the tracked vehicles and started to- 
ward shore. While still 200 yards from 
land, the tractor containing Colonel Amey 
was stopped by barbed wire. Rather than 
spend time circling to look for a passage 
the battalion commander ordered his men 
over the side to wade ashore. As the group 
waded toward the barbed wire, a burst of 
machine gun fire killed Colonel Amey and 
wounded three others. The remainder of 
the headquarters immediately splashed to 
cover behind an abandoned boat. Since 
Maj. Howard J. Rice, the battalion execu- 
tive, had landed on Red Beach 1, Lt. Col. 
Walter I.Jordan, an observer from the 4th 
Marine Division, assumed command of 
the 2d Battalion until Major Rice could 
rejoin his men. The command post was 
eventually set up in a shell hole in the mid- 
dle of Red Beach 2. Salt water or enemy 
machine gun fire had rendered the battal- 
ion's radios useless, and communication 
with the widely scattered elements, except 
by runner, was impossible. It was not until 
well after 1000 that a runner system began 
functioning on Red Beach 2. Even then, no 
attempt could be made to expand the area 



seized by the first landing waves. Each of 
the companies and the command post 
group had to give full attention to survival. 
Huddled along the coconut log barrier, 
moving only when necessary, the battalion 
turned its efforts to eliminating the enemy 
positions that jutted out onto the beach it- 
self. Groups from the 18th Marines (Engi- 
neers) that had landed with the first waves 
moved up and down the narrow beach 
area blowing up dugouts and emplace- 
ments with demolitions. Behind the battal- 
ion the water was filled with amphibian 
tractors and debris. Troops still struggled 
to get ashore, some wading, others ap- 
proaching gingerly in commandeered land- 
ing tractors. Practically all the marines who 
came ashore in this area had chosen the 
relative shelter of Long Pier and were try- 
ing to push toward the beaches by thread- 
ing their way along the piling. 

Unlike the situation at Red Beach 1, 
where ship-to-shore movement all but 
ceased during the period immediately fol- 
lowing the original assault, attempts to get 
troops ashore on Red Beach 2 were con- 
tinuous. Command groups and reserve ele- 
ments landed through the lagoon in am- 
phibian tractors or waded in beside 
Central Pier throughout the day. During 
the whole period, the approaches to Red 
Beach 2 were under constant heavy ma- 
chine gun and antiboat fire. 35 

The Landings at Red Beach 3 

The original landings on the extreme 
left were scheduled to be made by the 2d 
Battalion, 8th Marines, under Maj. Henry 
P. Crowe. The battalion had been attached 
to the 2d Marines for the operation. The 
two assault companies were E and F, sup- 

:,r> 18th Marines Combat Rpt, Incl A, Rpt of Co A, 
1st Bnl8th Marines, pp. 3-7; Stockman, Tarawa, p. 
17. 



THE CAPTURE OF TARAWA 



139 



ported by one platoon of Company G. One 
reason that this landing was considerably 
more successful than the others was the 
longer period of naval bombardment be- 
fore the landing. The fire from the two de- 
stroyers in the Red Beach 3 area lasted 
until seven minutes before the first LVT 
reached shore. Although heavy fire of all 
types greeted the first waves, it was not as 
effective as that on the other beaches. One 
LVT received a direct hit and was stopped 
in the water, and a few casualties were in- 
flicted on other landing craft. The number 
of men lost in the battalion totaled under 
twenty-five. Five of these casualties, offi- 
cers of Company E, were hit as they de- 
barked from their respective landing craft 
on the beach next to Central Pier. 

Two of Company E's LVT's found a 
hole in the coconut log barricade and 
drove through, continuing as far inland as 
the triangle formed by the main airstrip 
and taxiways. The rest of Company E lost 
no time in following on foot, and within a 
few minutes after the first wave was ashore 
a substantial beachhead extending to the 
airfield had been established. Company F, 
on the extreme left flank of Red Beach 3, 
had less success but did establish a hold 
with its left flank anchored on the short 
pier known as Burns-Philp Wharf. Before 
this company could expand its hold to 
reach the inland line of Company E, it was 
met by serious counterfire from a strong 
Japanese position a few yards to its left 
front. The supporting platoon of Company 
G landed without incident, moved along 
in the wake of Company E, mopping up 
several enemy positions, and eventually 
extending the left flank of the assault back 
toward Company F. No firm physical con- 
tact between the left and right companies 
was established, however, until late in the 
day. 36 



Reinforcing the Beachhead 

Colonel Shoup and the command group 
of the 2d Marines had followed close be- 
hind the assault waves in an LC VP and 
arrived at the reef a few minutes after the 
first wave reached the beach. When it be- 
came apparent that the landing craft in 
which he was boated could not get over 
the reef, the regimental commander hailed 
an LVT that was ferrying casualties back 
from the beach. The wounded men were 
transferred to the LCVP and Colonel 
Shoup and his party started for Red Beach 
2. After three separate attempts to reach 
shore, all of which were halted by heavy 
gunfire, the party was forced to debark 
when the tractor's engine stopped. By 1030 
the whole group was wading ashore along 
Central Pier. Shortly afterwards the com- 
mand post was established ashore on Red 
Beach 2. 37 

Colonel Shoup had maintained con- 
stant radio communication with all three 
of his landing team commanders until 
Colonel Amey was killed. Shoup later re- 
gained contact with Colonel Jordan 
through the radio of the 2d Battalion, 8th 
Marines. Information from Red Beach 1 
was scanty, owing to the failure of Major 
Schoettel to get ashore. 

In addition to the three companies of the 
3d Battalion, 2d Marines, other scattered 
units of the assault force had come ashore 
on Red Beach 1, principally from the 2d 
Battalion, 2d Marines, originally sched- 
uled for Red Beach 2. The landing craft 
carrying these battalion units had been 
driven to the right, either by the heavy fire 



36 2d Marine Regt Rpt of Opns on Betio Island, 20- 
24 Nov 43, Incl H, Rpt of Tarawa Opns by 2d Bn 8th 
Marines (hereafter cited as 2d Bn 8th Marines Action 
Rpt), pp. 1-2. 

37 Ibid., pp. 1-2; Stockman, Tarawa, pp. 16-17. 



THE CAPTURE OF TARAWA 



141 



from the strong point between the two 
beaches or by mechanical failures of the 
LVT's. One platoon of Company E, one 
platoon of Company G, two platoons of 
Company H, the 2d Battalion executive 
officer, Major Rice, and a portion of the 
battalion headquarters company landed 
at the northwestern corner of the island on 
Red Beach 1. Immediately upon landing, 
Major Rice attempted to rejoin his own 
battalion on Red Beach 2, but because of 
the strong point between the two beaches 
his attempts were to prove unsuccessful. 38 

While still afloat, Colonel Shoup decided 
to commit his reserve. The reports from 
the 2d Battalion, at this time principally 
from Major Rice who described his unit 
as isolated and pinned on the beach, and 
the absence of information from Red 
Beach 1, seemed to indicate to the regi- 
mental commander that the situation was 
more precarious on the two right-hand 
beaches. At 0958 he therefore ordered 
Maj. Wood B. Kyle, commander of the 1st 
Battalion, 2d Marines, to land on Red 
Beach 2 and work to the west toward Red 
Beach 1 in an attempt to assist the 3d Bat- 
talion in that area. 39 

Major Kyle moved at once to the reef 
but found, as others had before him, that 
the landing craft in which he was boated 
could not negotiate the shallow water be- 
tween there and shore. By this time, ap- 
proximately 1030, more LVT's from the 
original landing waves were returning to 
the reef line. Major Kyle set about at once 
to secure as many of these as possible. At 
1100 he had commandeered enough of 
them to boat Companies A and B. Com- 
pany C remained at the reef until addi- 
tional vehicles could be procured and did 
not land until after 13 00. 40 Meanwhile, 
during the transfer of the two assault com- 
panies of the battalion, enemy fire had 



continued heavy throughout the lagoon. 
Three of the 1st Battalion's boats were 
sunk by direct hits during the debarkation. 
When the LVT's turned and started again 
for the beach they were met by the same 
intense fire that had greeted the units 
landing earlier. In the ensuing twenty 
minutes many of the tractors received hits 
from large-caliber shells or were riddled 
with bullets. As in the case of the early as- 
sault waves, many marines were forced to 
take to the water and wade ashore with 
resultant heavy casualties. The tractors on 
the right were forced off course. A total of 
one officer and 1 10 men thus landed on 
Red Beach 1 and eventually joined the 2d 
"and 3d Battalions. 

The orders committing the reserve bat- 
talion had been intercepted aboard the 
flagship Maryland and at 1018 General 
Julian Smith ordered Col. Elmer E. Hall, 
commander of the 8th Marine Regimental 
Combat Team, to release one battalion 
landing team of his regiment, which was 
in division reserve, to Colonel Shoup at the 
line of departure. 41 The 3d Battalion, 8th 
Marines, at this time debarking from its 
transport, was designated for the job. The 
landing craft bearing this battalion left the 
line of departure at 1200 for Red Beach 3. 
The battalion, boated in LCVP's, found it 
impossible to proceed farther than the reef 
line and, like others before them, debarked 
to wade ashore. At the particular point of 
debarkation the water was deep, and a 
few of the heavily laden marines drowned. 
The others were taken under heavy fire 
from the beaches as they waded their way 

38 2d Bn 2d Marines Action Rpt, pp. 2-4. 

39 2d Marine Regt Rpt of Opns on Betio Island, 20- 
24 Nov 43, Incl E, Rpt of Tarawa Opns by 1st Bn 2d 
Marines (hereafter cited as 1st Bn 2d Marines Action 
Rpt), p. 1. 

40 Ibid., pp. 1, 2. 

41 2d Mar Div D-3 Jnl, 19-20 Nov 43, p. 9. 



142 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



to shore. Within the space of a few minutes 
severe casualties had been suffered by the 
battalion, and the survivors gravitated to 
Central Pier to make their way inland. It 
was late afternoon before elements of the 
battalion were able to take an effective 
part in the action. 42 

Development of the Situation 
on 20 November 

By early afternoon of D Day five battal- 
ions of marines had been committed at 
Tarawa. All but one had sustained heavy 
casualties and were in a badly disorgan- 
ized state. On Red Beach 1 elements of 
three battalions supported by two medium 
tanks were fighting virtually separate 
actions. On Red Beach 2 elements of two 
battalions struggled to hold the ground 
they had seized in the landings and fought 
to clear out the positions from which fire 
was being placed on the narrow beach 
area. Some attempt was made to expand 
the beachhead, but with little success. On 
Red Beach 3 the early successes of Com- 
pany E, 8th Marines, were consolidated, 
and the major effort was directed toward 
the reduction of the troublesome enemy 
positions near Burns-Philp Wharf. 

The Action Along the Western End 
of the Island 

As already related, Major Ryan, the 
commander of Company L, had assumed 
command of all elements of the 3d Battal- 
ion, 2d Marines, ashore on Red Beach 1 
shortly after his arrival there. For two 
hours after the two assault companies had 
established firm physical contact, Major 
Ryan sought to organize the battalion's 
remnants for a drive across the island. 
With the arrival of the two medium tanks 



early in the afternoon, this aggressive of- 
ficer was finally able to drive forward to- 
ward the south shore of Betio. Working 
from shelter to shelter, small detachments 
made steady progress. The support of the 
two tanks was extremely valuable, but 
midway in the engagement one was dis- 
abled by a direct hit from an enemy gun 
and the other was damaged in a duel with 
an enemy tank. By that time Major Ryan's 
force had moved to within 300 yards of 
the south shore of the island, and the com- 
mander was anxiously trying to reach 
higher headquarters with the information 
that part of Green Beach, on the west coast 
of Betio, was available for landing re- 
serves. 43 

Major Ryan's reports of the conditions 
on Red Beach 1 failed to reach their des- 
tination, and the suitability of Green 
Beach for landings was not yet realized. 
Neither General Julian Smith nor Colonel 
Shoup was optimistic about the situation 
on Red Beach 1. Both officers, who had 
received their information during the 
morning from reports of Major Schoettel, 
were under the impression that the posi- 
tion of the 3d Battalion, 2d Marines, was 
extremely tenuous. 44 It was only at 1800, 
when Colonel Shoup finally succeeded in 
establishing radio contact with Major 
Ryan, that the real situation became 
known. Major Ryan, in the meantime, 
had withdrawn his lines into a more com- 
pact defensive position and reported that 
the 3d Battalion held a beachhead approx- 
imately 300 yards deep and 150 yards wide. 

Elsewhere in the Red Beach 1 area little 
progress had been made. Throughout the 
afternoon the units under Major Rice's 

42 3d Bn 8th Marines Special Action Rpt, 1 Dec 43, 
pp. 1-2. 

43 3d Bn 2d Marines Action Rpt; Stockman, 
Tarawa, p. 22. 

44 2d Marine Div D-3 Jnl, 19-20 Nov 43, p. 10. 



THE CAPTURE OF TARAWA 



143 




DAMAGED MEDIUM TANK M4 



command had fought to destroy the posi- 
tions separating the western beach from 
Red Beach 2. Many of the marines who 
had landed near the northwestern tip of 
the island continued to be pinned down on 
the narrow coral sand strip between the 
water's edge and the coconut barricade 
that had been erected twenty yards inland. 
The stubborn system of Japanese defensive 
positions at the boundary between beaches 
continued to pour fire into this confined 
space. As darkness fell, several hundred 
yards still separated the landing forces on 
the two beaches. 45 

Completion of the Action on D Day 

Elsewhere on Betio Island the situation 
of the troops improved only slightly during 
the day. On Red Beach 3, Major Crowe's 
battalion bent its efforts toward eliminat- 



ing the strong steel-reinforced position on 
its left flank. In vicious fighting throughout 
the afternoon, the Japanese resisted efforts 
to destroy the position. Buildings near it 
were set on fire by marines, tanks and 
flame throwers were brought into play, 
and one section of 37-mm. guns was lifted 
above the sea wall to take the position 
under direct fire. The 1st Platoon of Com- 
pany F, nearest the beach, was pinned 
down most of the afternoon by a constant 
shower of grenades and machine gun fire. 
Late in the afternoon the 2d Platoon of 
Company F was virtually wiped out while 
trying to circle the emplacement on its in- 
land side. The action of the tanks and guns 
did succeed in breaking up one tank-sup- 
ported Japanese counterattack. 46 

45 Stockman, Tarawa, p. 22. 

46 2d Bn 8th Marines Action Rpt, pp. 2, 3. 



144 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 




DAMAGED JAPANESE TYPE 95 LIGHT TANK ON BETIO 



On the right of Major Crowe's line, 
Companies E and G, supported and rein- 
forced by elements of the 3d Battalion, 8th 
Marines, consolidated their hold on the 
area between the beach and the airstrip 
triangle. The advanced positions, however, 
were under constant rifle and machine 
gun fire from bypassed Japanese defenders 
who had utilized every conceivable hiding 
place from which to harass the invaders. 

The most confused situation on the 
island at nightfall was on Red Beach 2 
where the 2d Battalion, 2d Marines, had 
been unable to organize a sustained attack 
from the narrow toe hold originally estab- 
lished on the beach. Some small detach- 
ments had penetrated 125 yards inland 
from the sea wall, while others still re- 
mained pinned down on the narrow sand 
strip at the water's edge. Units were disor- 



ganized and scrambled, and large gaps 
existed in the lines throughout the zone of 
action. The 1st Battalion, 2d Marines, had 
bolstered the 2d Battalion at various places, 
but there was no organized line. One com- 
pany commander later described the situa- 
tion as "impossible to control." No officer 
knew where all the component elements of 
his command were, nor did he have the 
necessary communications to control those 
he could not see. 47 

Supply, Communications, and Command 

Original supply plans of the 2d Division 
had called for a routine discharge of cargo 
from the transports into available lighter- 
age following debarkation of assault troops. 



47 2d Bn 2d Marines Action Rpt, pp. 2ff. 



THE CAPTURE OF TARAWA 



145 



These barges were to follow the landing 
waves ashore, at first in waves and later, 
as dumps were established ashore, moving 
as directed by the control boat as fast as 
the beach could handle them. Attempts to 
follow this plan soon failed. Discharge of 
cargo from transports was effected rapidly, 
but the supply barges, when they arrived 
at the reef line, found it impossible to 
reach the beaches. During the earlier part 
of the day LVT's were kept busy ferrying 
reserve troops ashore and had little time 
for transporting supplies. In this situation 
many of the small craft loaded with sup- 
plies returned to the line of departure and 
waited there for further orders. By early 
afternoon a confused jam of boats had con- 
centrated near the entrance to the lagoon. 
Some supply craft did move to the end of 
Central Pier and there discharged their 
loads, but the movement of supplies along 
the pier to the beaches was as difficult from 
that point as it was from the reef itself. 
This was partly because a section of the 
log structure had been burnt out by earlier 
American action and partly because of the 
intense fire that the enemy placed along 
the pier. In many cases the reserve troops 
that worked their way shoreward along 
the pier throughout the day carried some 
of the more vitally needed supplies, such 
as water, ammunition, and plasma, ashore 
with them. By nightfall several carrying 
parties had been organized under the di- 
rection of Brig. Gen. Leo D. Hermle, as- 
sistant division commander, and Maj. 
Stanley E. Larsen, executive officer of the 
3d Battalion, 8th Marines. The carrying 
parties worked throughout the night to get 
supplies ashore. Some supplies were also 
ferried ashore in LVT's on D Day, but the 
amount was negligible. 48 

The supply situation brought into sharp 
focus another pressing problem of the 



Tarawa invasion force — that of communi- 
cations. Colonel Shoup had radioed to the 
transports intermittently throughout the 
day asking for more ammunition, water, 
and medical supplies. As these calls 
reached the ships they heightened the con- 
fusion there. The transport commanders 
had been dispatching boatloads of cargo 
since early morning, under the impression 
that they were arriving safely at the 
beaches. Because no accurate picture of 
the situation between the transports and 
the beach was available, the transport 
group commander, Capt. Henry B. 
Knowles, USN, sent Maj. Ben K. Weath- 
erwax, assistant supply officer of the divi- 
sion, ashore to determine the exact status 
of supplies there. This mission, begun at 
2100, took until dawn to complete. Major 
Weatherwax found that Colonel Shoup 
had received virtually none of the supplies 
dispatched to him and that the majority of 
boats containing the badly needed mate- 
rials was still at the line of departure. One 
of the ironical features of Major Weather- 
wax's mission came when he tried to trans- 
mit this information back to Captain 
Knowles by radio. Two different attempts 
to reach the naval commander failed, and 
eventually the supply officer had to make 
the long, tortuous trip back along the pier 
to a landing boat and report to the trans- 
port in person. 49 

The failure of communications had 
other serious consequences. Aboard Mary- 
land, the only information that the division 
commander, General Julian Smith, had, 

48 TG 53. 1 Rpt on Tarawa Opns, 1 Dec 43, p. 2; 
Stockman, Tarawa, pp. 25-26; Ltr, CG 2d Marine Div 
to CG V Phib Corps, 2 Jan 44, sub; Recommenda- 
tions Based on Tarawa Opn, No. 3, Ship-to-Shore 
Supplies, Beach and Shore Parties, p. 2, A 7-17, 2d 
Mar Div/Recommendation Tarawa, Gilbert Area 
files, Hist Branch, G-3, Hq USMC. 

49 Stockman, Tarawa, pp. 26-27. 



146 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



came from the reports of observers in 
planes, intercepted radio messages, and a 
few direct reports from Colonel Shoup. At 
1343 General Smith ordered General 
Hermle to proceed at once to the end of 
the pier, form an estimate of the situation 
ashore, and relay the estimate to Mary- 
land. 50 The assistant division commander 
reported at 1710 that he was at the pier, 
but subsequent efforts to forward informa- 
tion to General Smith from that point 
proved unsuccessful. The messages had to 
be sent by hand to the nearest ship for re- 
lay to Maryland, with the result that they 
did not arrive at the command post for 
some time. For two hours General Hermle 
was able to talk to Colonel Shoup and 
Major Crowe and to assist in organizing 
supply and evacuation procedure at the 
pier. At 1930 all radio communications 
with the shore ceased, and General Hermle 
sent two officers along the pier to Colonel 
Shoup's command post on the beach. They 
returned at 0345 with an estimate of the 
situation ashore. 51 To transmit this to Gen- 
eral Smith, General Hermle had to go to 
the destroyer Ringgold. Even then General 
Smith never received the message which 
included, among other things, a recom- 
mendation that the 1st Battalion, 8th 
Marines, be committed on Red Beach 2. 
Meanwhile, General Smith had ordered 
General Hermle to take command of 
troops ashore. This order, issued at 1750 
on D Day, was never received by the as- 
sistant division commander. 52 Colonel 
Carlson, veteran of the Makin raid and 
now an observer who had landed with the 
assault troops, had left the beach at 1230 
at the request of Colonel Shoup. He even- 
tually reached Maryland with the first com- 
plete picture of Colonel Shoup's situation. 53 
The absence of a detailed estimate had 
not prevented General Smith from acting 



vigorously to relieve what he understood 
to be a precarious situation ashore. After 
releasing one battalion (the 3d) of the 8th 
Marines to Colonel Shoup, he ordered, at 
1 130, all the remaining elements of the 8th 
Marines to be boated. Next, he sent an in- 
quiry to Shoup asking whether these ele- 
ments were needed ashore. 54 The answer, 
received an hour and a half later, was a 
succinct "Yes." 55 

At 1625 General Smith ordered Colonel 
Hall, commander of the 8th Marines, to 
land on the eastern beaches. Colonel Hall 
was already afloat, waiting at the line of 
departure with the 1st Battalion for orders 
to land. General Smith's message was 
never received by him, and the remainder 
of the 8th Marines stayed afloat through- 
out the night waiting for the orders that 
never came. At division headquarters a 
message was received at 2019 that Colonel 
Hall had landed at Red Beach 2, and so 
no further orders were issued. 36 This erro- 
neous report came from an air observer 
who had mistakenly identified the land- 
ing craft of the 1st Battalion, 10th Marines 
(Artillery), then heading for the shore as 
those belonging to the 1st Battalion, 8th 
Marines. 57 

The waves of the three assault battalions 
and the elements of the two reserve bat- 
talions had spent the day on or near the 
beaches with little or no resupply and very 
little in the way of support. Only two me- 
dium tanks had joined the force on Red 
Beach 1. Another platoon of mediums 



511 2d Marine Div D-3 Jnl, 19-20 Nov 43, p. 17. 

51 Stockman, Tarawa, pp. 25, 26. 

52 2d Marine Div D-3 Jnl, 19-20 Nov 43, p. 24; 
Stockman, Tarawa, p. 26. 

53 Stockman, Tarawa, p. 25. 

54 2d Marine Div D-3 Jnl, 19-20 Nov 43, p. 9. 

55 Ibid., p. 15. 

56 2d Marine Div D-3 Jnl, 20-2 1 Nov 43, p. 2. 

57 Stockman, Tarawa, p. 24. 



THE CAPTURE OF TARAWA 



147 



managed to get three vehicles ashore on 
Red Beach 2. These were eventually or- 
dered by Colonel Shoup to move across 
the front to support the 3d Battalion, 2d 
Marines, on Red Beach 1. As they ap- 
proached the formidable Japanese position 
between Red Beach 1 and Red Beach 2, 
however, they were halted by marines who 
told them they could not get through. The 
tanks were eventually put to work by the 
2d Battalion, 2d Marines, and aided ma- 
terially in eliminating several of the pill- 
boxes and reinforced emplacements behind 
Red Beach 2. Two of the three vehicles 
were put out of action during the first day. 

Four medium tanks of the 3d Platoon, 
Company C, 2d Tank Battalion, landed 
on Red Beach 3 shortly after the first 
waves had landed. Three were put out of 
action during the first two hours. The 
other, although set afire early on D Day, 
continued to operate in support of the 2d 
Battalion, 8th Marines, throughout the 
engagement. 58 

Most of the support afforded the men 
ashore on D Day was furnished by war- 
ships and carrier-based aircraft. It had 
been planned to land artillery on Red 
Beach 1 as soon as a sufficient beachhead 
had been established. The battalion se- 
lected for this mission was the 1st Bat- 
talion, 10th Marines (75-mm. pack how- 
itzers), under Lt. Col Presley M. Rixey, 
USMC. Colonel Rixey landed on Tarawa 
as a member of Colonel Shoup 's command 
group and took an active part in the direc- 
tion of the landing operations. The artil- 
lery was held at the line of departure, how- 
ever, until conditions ashore improved. 
Later in the afternoon it was decided to 
bring the howitzers ashore on Red Beach 
2, rather than Red Beach 1 where the 
situation was still obscure. By the end of 
the day five gun sections of the battalion 



had been brought ashore either in LVT's 
or by boat and hand-carry. This com- 
pleted the build-up of assault forces on 
D Day. 59 

Consolidating the Beachhead: D plus 1 

As night fell on Betio, the 2d Division 
faced its most critical period — everyone 
expected the Japanese to counterattack. At 
every point on the beachhead the hold was 
precarious. At 1911 General Smith had 
radioed Colonel Shoup, "Hold what you 
have." 60 Efforts to expand the beachhead 
were to be discontinued until morning. 
Under cover of darkness, however, the task 
of resupply and reinforcement was to 
proceed. 

Activities during the night proved anti- 
climactic. Instead of making vicious at- 
tempts to drive the marines back into the 
sea, the Japanese allowed the hours of 
darkness to pass in relative quiet. Here 
and there small infiltrating groups of the 
enemy wandered into American lines. 
Some detachments even managed to swim 
out into the lagoon and man machine guns 
on old hulks west of Central Pier or to oc- 
cupy burnt-out LVT's from which they 
could place fire on the approaches to the 
beaches. One Japanese unit attempted to 
recapture Burns- Philp Wharf, but was 
driven off by a patrol of the 2d Battalion, 
8th Marines. 61 

As the second day on Betio dawned, the 
furious battle was renewed. The first 
American effort of the morning was aimed 
at landing the 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, 
which had remained afloat at the line of 
departure throughout the night. Division 



™ Ibid. 

59 Ibid., p. 28. 

60 2d Marine Div D-3 Jnl, 20-21 Nov 43, p. 2. 

61 2d Bn 8th Marines Action Rpt, p. 3. 



148 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



headquarters had not learned the where- 
abouts of this battalion until after mid- 
night when Colonel Hall was finally 
reached through the radios on Pursuit. First 
plans envisioned the landing of the re- 
mainder of the 8th Marines at the eastern 
end of the island. At 0513, however, divi- 
sion headquarters was notified that Colo- 
nel Shoup would prefer to have the bat- 
talion on Red Beach 2. 62 Accordingly, at 
0615 the commander of the 1st Battalion, 
8th Marines, Maj. Lawrence C. Hays, Jr., 
and his men clambered out of their land- 
ing craft at the reef line, just to the west of 
Central Pier. An hour later the first four 
waves were ashore, having suffered heavy 
casualties while wading to the beach. 63 
Colonel Shoup immediately ordered Ma- 
jor Hays to reorganize and take up a posi- 
tion on the right flank of the 2d Battalion, 
2d Marines. When ready, he was to launch 
an attack against the stubbornly defended 
position at the juncture of the two right- 
hand beaches in an effort to re-establish 
contact with the 3d Battalion, 2d Ma- 
rines. 64 

Earlier, a serious attempt to eliminate 
the blockhouses on the battalion boundary 
had been made. During the landing of the 
1st Battalion, 8th Marines, Colonel Rixey 
had put the pack howitzers of his 1 0th Ma- 
rines in position to fire directly upon these 
emplacements. Using delay fuzes in order 
to penetrate the coral and log shelters, the 
howitzers succeeded in silencing the en- 
emy's guns in this area, though only tem- 
porarily. 65 

Coincident with the attempt to bolster 
the men ashore with reinforcements, was 
the effort to straighten out the supply situ- 
ation. The key to this seemed to lie in the 
assembly of landing craft and amphibian 
tractors that had been near the line of de- 
parture throughout most of the first night. 



Early on the morning of 21 November, 
Capt. John B. McGovern, USN, com- 
mander of Transport Group 4, was sent to 
Pursuit to take control of the ship-to-shore 
movement of supplies. By 1000 Captain 
McGovern had commandeered eighteen 
LVT's with which, in conjunction with 
Marine Corps supply officers, he instituted 
a ferrying system in which the amphibian 
tractors shuttled supplies to shore and 
evacuated wounded from the beaches to 
the control vessel. 66 

Colonel Shoup from dawn until 1000 on 
D plus 1 sought to launch a drive to ex- 
pand the narrow beachhead held during 
the night. On Red Beach 3 the primary 
objective of Major Crowe's battalion was 
the reduction of the strong system of em- 
placements near Burns-Philp Wharf. Al- 
though virtually all of the attention of the 
U.S. troops in this zone was centered on 
the position, little progress was made in re- 
ducing it or in eliminating the heavy fire 
that poured along the beach from it. 67 

In the center of Betio, with support from 
Colonel Rixey's artillery, the 2d Battalion, 
2d Marines, soon consolidated a line just 
short of the taxiway on the airfield and 
began to move men into the triangle 
formed by the taxiway and airstrip where 
a few isolated individuals had spent the 
night. Between the airfield and the north- 
ern beach, demolition groups moved 
against Japanese stragglers. One by one 
the stubborn positions that had harassed 
landing operations for twenty-four hours 



62 2d Marine Div D-3 Jnl, 20-21 Nov 43, pp. 1, 
8-9. 

63 8th Marines Special Action Rpt, 1 Dec 43, p. 1 ; 
1st Bn 8th Marines Combat Rpt, 28 Nov 43, p. 1. 

64 1st Bn 8th Marines Combat Rpt, 28 Nov 43, p. 1. 

65 Stockman, Tarawa, pp. 37-38. 

66 CINCPAC-CINCPOA Opns in POA, Nov 43, 
Annex E, p. 12; Stockman, Tarawa, pp. 36-37. 

67 2d Bn 8th Marines Action Rpt, pp. 3-4. 



150 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



were reduced and some freedom of move- 
ment was at last achieved by the marines 
on and near the water's edge. Also on Red 
Beach 2, the 1st Battalion, 2d Marines, con- 
centrated first on removing enemy ma- 
chine guns that interdicted the approaches 
to the airstrip and then began a drive 
toward the south shore of Betio. 68 On Red 
Beach 1 Major Ryan by 1100 had or- 
ganized a drive that was to carry all the 
way across the island and to secure Green 
Beach — the western coast of Betio — so that 
it could be freely used for subsequent land- 
ings. Close gunfire support by two de- 
stroyers paved the way for this advance. 69 

The attacks launched on the fronts dur- 
ing the afternoon were successful on all but 
the left zone of action, where no advance 
was made. On Red Beach 2 and Red 
Beach 1 elements of three battalions drove 
all the way across the island to the opposite 
shore. 70 Shortly after 1700 Colonel Shoup, 
in the first encouraging message to division 
headquarters, ended by adding the hope- 
ful words "We are winning." 71 

About mid-afternoon on D Day, when 
the situation ashore was most confused 
and precarious and while reports of ex- 
tremely heavy casualties were reaching 
Maryland, Admiral Hill had radioed Ad- 
miral Turner, at Makin, asking for the re- 
lease of the Expeditionary Troop Reserve 
for use at Tarawa. 72 As a result Col. Mau- 
rice G. Holmes, commanding officer of the 
6th Marine Regimental Combat Team, 
was notified some two hours later that his 
regiment had been released from corps 
reserve to 2d Marine Division control. The 
next morning (21 November), at a con- 
ference aboard Maryland, General Smith 
and Colonel Holmes discussed several pos- 
sibilities for the employment of the reserve 
regiment. No decision was made at the 
conference but shortly after noon it was 



decided to land one battalion over Green 
Beach on the western coast of Betio. Colo- 
nel Holmes directed his 1st Battalion, 
commanded by Maj. William K. Jones, to 
prepare to go ashore. 73 This was accom- 
plished at 1640. The battalion landing 
team was followed about two hours later 
by a platoon of light tanks — the 3d Pla- 
toon, Company B, 2d Tank Battalion. 74 

Shortly after noon, Lt. Col. Raymond 
L. Murray, commanding officer of the 2d 
Battalion, 6th Marines, received orders to 
land on Bairiki Island, less than three and 
a half miles to the southeast of Betio. 75 The 
movement, designed to intercept enemy 
troops that might be escaping across the 
reef between the two islands and thence 
into the far reaches of the atoll, was ac- 
complished later in the afternoon following 
an intensive naval and aerial bombard- 
ment. No live Japanese was discovered. 76 

Tarawa Is Secured 

The afternoon of D plus 1,21 Novem- 
ber, was the turning point in the battle for 
Tarawa. At the close of the day there were 
seven battalions of Marine infantry ashore 
on Betio, the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, 
having landed at 1840 over Green Beach, 
supported by a company of light tanks. 
Early the next morning, a battalion of Ma- 
rine artillery (2d Battalion, 10th Marines) 
went ashore on Bairiki. Troops on Red 
Beaches 1 and 2 had driven to the south 
coast of Betio, although the stubborn 



6S 1st Bn 2d Marines Action Rpt, p. 4. 
89 3d Bn 2d Marines Action Rpt, p. 2. 

70 2d Marine Div Special Action Rpt, p. 3. 

71 2d Marine Div D-3 Jnl, 20-21 Nov 43, p. 25. 

72 Ibid., 19-20 Nov 43, p. 16. 

73 6th Marines Special Action Rpt, 20 Dec 43, p. 6. 

74 Stockman, Tarawa, p. 40. 

75 6th Marines Special Action Rpt, 20 Dec 43, p. 6. 

76 Stockman, Tarawa, p. 40. 



THE CAPTURE OF TARAWA 



151 



pocket on the boundary between the two 
beaches still defied all attempts to destroy 
it and continued to harass, to some extent, 
landing activities at both Red Beaches and 
on Central Pier. At 2030 Col, Merritt A. 
Edson, Chief of Staff, 2d Division, estab- 
lished an advance command post on Red 
Beach 2, for the first time providing a 
centralized headquarters ashore that 
would not be subject to the vagaries of 
communication failures. Colonel Edson 
immediately assumed the burden of com- 
mand until General Smith could come 
ashore. 77 

Plans for the Third Day 

Colonel Edson spent virtually the entire 
night of 21-22 November in consultation 
with Colonels Shoup and Hall before 
issuing the orders for the co-ordinated at- 
tack of the next morning. Two of the great 
deficiencies of the 21 November opera- 
tions were provided for during the confer- 
ence. The first, air and naval gunfire sup- 
port, which had been present but in large 
measure ineffective because of the inac- 
curate knowledge of American positions, 
was now co-ordinated to provide thorough 
and complete coverage of all target areas 
in front of the proposed attack. 78 In addi- 
tion, at 0330, Colonel Edson ordered that 
the 2d Battalion, 10th Marines (Artillery), 
less one battery, be landed on Bairiki 
Island to provide supporting fire for the 
advance. 79 To overcome many of the com- 
munications difficulties, the radios of the 
separate landing teams of the 6th Marines 
were brought into the command net of the 
2d Division. 80 Added precaution was 
taken by sending information of the attack 
by officer courier to the units on Red 
Beach 1 and Green Beach. 81 

The attack of 22 November was to have 



two objectives. The first was to advance to 
the east along the south shore of the 
island. This movement was to be made by 
the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, attacking 
from Green Beach through the lines then 
held by the 3d Battalion, 2d Marines. The 
advance was to continue through the area 
of the 1st and 2d Battalions, 2d Marines, 
tying in eventually with the right flank of 
the 8th Marines, which was to change its 
direction of attack from south to east. This 
latter change was actually only a formality 
inasmuch as Major Crowe's full attention 
since shortly after landing had been cen- 
tered on the position just inland from the 
base of Burns-Philp Wharf, which was to 
the east. This main attack was to be rein- 
forced in the zone of the 6th Marines by 
the 3d Battalion of that regiment, which 
was held in reserve just off Green Beach. 
Two battalions of the 8th Marines, the 2d 
and 3d, were to make the main effort on 
the left (north). 

The second objective of the day was to 
be the reduction of the pocket between 
Red Beaches 1 and 2. This attack was to 
be made by the 1st Battalion, 8th Marines. 
The battalion was to pivot on the beach, 
swing to the west, and move toward Red 
Beach 1 through the pocket, which would 
be contained on the opposite side by the 
3d Battalion, 2d Marines. 

Gains on 22 November 

The 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, jumped 
off at 0800. Moving with two companies 
abreast down the narrow hundred-yard 
strip of heavily fortified ground between 



77 Stockman, Tarawa, pp. 40-41. 

78 2d Marine Div D-3 Jnl, 21-22 Nov 43, p. 4. 

79 6th Marines Special Action Rpt, 20 Dec 43, p. 5. 

80 Stockman, Tarawa, p. 43. 

81 2d Marine Div D-3 Jnl, 21-22 Nov 43, p. 6. 



THE CAPTURE OF TARAWA 



153 



the airfield and the south shore, Major 
Jones and his men progressed rapidly and 
by 1 100 had reached the area held by the 
1st Battalion, 2d Marines. An estimated 
250 Japanese were killed and only light 
casualties were incurred by the marines. 82 
During the forenoon the rest of the 3d Bat- 
talion, 6th Marines, landed over Green 
Beach and began moving up in the rear of 
the assault. 83 

Upon completion of the first phase of 
the attack new orders were issued for a 
continuation of the advance up the island 
as far as the eastern end of the airfield. 
This advance began about 1300 and con- 
tinued in the face of stronger resistance 
until the objective was reached late in the 
afternoon. 84 

Elsewhere on Betio gains had also been 
made during the day against heavier re- 
sistance and with less evident results. 
Company F, 8th Marines, aided by Com- 
pany K of the same regiment and detach- 
ments of the 18th Marines (Engineers), 
finally succeeded in reducing the steel pill- 
box just inland from Burns-Philp Wharf, 
together with two strong supporting posi- 
tions. One of the positions, a large block- 
house, was counterattacked by the Japa- 
nese shortly after it had been captured, 
but the attempt to retake it was broken 
up. 85 It was the successful completion of 
this action during the morning that 
brought about the issuance of the new 
orders for the afternoon of the third day. 86 
Once the evidently strong enemy positions 
there had been reduced, the 8th Marines 
would be relieved while the relatively 
fresh battalions of the 6th Marines con- 
tinued to the eastern tip of the island. 

The attack on the strong point between 
the westernmost beaches proceeded slowly. 
The two companies farthest inland made 
some gains, but Company B, 8th Marines, 



nearest the shore, met firm resistance and 
was little nearer to the reduction of the 
position at nightfall than it had been in the 
morning. During the afternoon the 1st 
Battalion, 2d Marines, was relieved by the 
advance of the 1st Battalion, 6th Ma- 
rines. 87 

At nightfall on the third day Americans 
were in possession of all the western end 
of Betio Island as far east as the eastern 
end of the airfield, except for the pocket 
between Red Beaches 1 and 2. General 
Julian Smith came ashore on Green Beach 
shortly before noon and then moved to 
Red Beach 2 by LVT and assumed com- 
mand ashore. 88 Despite the relatively sub- 
stantial gains, it was estimated that at 
least five days of heavy fighting remained 
before the atoll would be completely sub- 
dued. 89 

Events of the Third Night 

General Julian Smith had already 
begun the preparation of the attack order 
for the fourth day when this pessimistic 
prediction was made. On the next morn- 
ing Colonel Holmes was to assume com- 
mand of the final drive to the eastern tip 
of Betio Island. The two battalions of the 
6th Marines already on Betio were to be 
joined by the 2d Battalion, which would 
be moved from Bairiki. 90 This plan for fur- 
ther reinforcement was to be rendered un- 
necessary before it could be executed, for, 
as the order was being prepared, events 

82 6th Marines Special Action Rpt, 20 Dec 43, p. 6. 

83 2d Marine Div D-3 Jnl, 21-22 Nov 43, p. 15. 

84 1st Bn 6th Marines Special Action Rpt, 3 Dec 43, 
pp. 4, 5. 

85 2d Bn 8th Marines Action Rpt, p. 4. 

86 2d Marine Div D-3 Jnl, 21-22 Nov 43, p. 17. 

87 1st Bn 8th Marines Combat Rpt, 28 Nov 43, p. 2. 

88 2d Marine Div D-3 Jnl, 21-22 Nov 43, pp. 18, 22. 

89 Ibid., p. 27. 

90 6th Marines Special Action Rpt, 20 Dec 43, p. 6. 



154 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



were already transpiring that were to end 
Japanese resistance. Throughout the battle 
the enemy had shown little inclination to 
counterattack and seemed un-co-ordinated 
and lacking in offensive leadership, ap- 
parently because of the breakdown in 
communications caused by the prelimi- 
nary aerial and naval bombardment. By 
the evening of 22 November most of the 
remaining enemy, approximately 1 ,000 in 
number, were squeezed east into the nar- 
row tail of the island. There, although 
unable to maneuver, they could effect a 
closer-knit organization than had hereto- 
fore been possible. The Japanese leaders 
seemed to have determined, therefore, on 
an offensive action against the invaders, 
and this move they planned carefully. At 
approximately 1930 a group of about fifty 
Japanese attacked American positions es- 
tablished only a short time before. 91 The 
1st Battalion, 6th Marines, had already 
assumed responsibility for the whole cross- 
island line, and Major Jones had placed 
all three of his rifle companies in position 
with his weapons company, just in the 
rear, in reserve. The Japanese succeeded 
in finding a small gap between two of the 
front-line units, but the battalion moved 
in to close the hole and helped destroy the 
attacking force without sustaining serious 
damage. One significant feature of this ac- 
tion was the employment of grenades, 
bayonets, and literally hand-to-hand ac- 
tion by the marines. 92 The reliance on 
close-in methods of defense defeated the 
whole purpose of the enemy's infiltration 
attempt, which seems to have been to se- 
cure accurate information as to American 
positions. The Japanese were forced to risk 
a second probing attack later in the eve- 
ning with the consequent attrition of their 
already dwindling strength. Artillery was 
brought within seventy-five yards of the 



Marine front lines and acted as an effec- 
tive screen before the infantry. The second 
Japanese attack was a two-pronged move- 
ment, one group striking at Company B on 
the right of the line and another group of 
about the same size against the left center 
of the line in the Company A sector. Both 
enemy groups were destroyed — that at- 
tacking Company A was annihilated by 
artillery fire and the one in front of Com- 
pany B by a combination of close-in artil- 
lery fire and hand-to-hand infantry 
fighting. 93 

The final and heaviest counterattack 
was launched by the enemy at 0300 after 
an hour of intense enemy machine gun fire 
all along the line. Several of the Japanese 
guns were destroyed by American gre- 
nades and counterfire from heavy machine 
guns. The final attack, when it came, was 
launched by about 300 enemy troops and 
hit both Company A and Company B. It 
was repulsed within an hour. Within an 
area fifty yards deep in front of the Marine 
positions, over 200 Japanese were found 
dead next morning, while in the impact 
area of the artillery, somewhat farther re- 
moved, another 125 badly mangled bodies 
were found. 94 

Betio Island Secured 

While the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, 
was repulsing the counterattack, prepara- 
tions were made for the fourth day's action. 
The 3d Battalion, 6th Marines, had been 
moved before 2300 into position directly 
behind the front line. At the time of the 
second counterattack one company was 

91 1st Bn 6th Marines Special Action Rpt, 3 Dec 43, 
p. 5. 

92 Stockman, Tarawa, pp. 52, 53. 

93 1st Bn 6th Marines Special Action Rpt, 3 Dec 43, 
p. 6. 

94 Stockman, Tarawa, p. 54. 



THE CAPTURE OF TARAWA 



155 



already in position there and before morn- 
ing the whole battalion had formed a sec- 
ondary line. 95 At 0800 the 3d Battalion 
passed Companies I and L through the 1st 
Battalion and attacked to the east down 
the narrow tail of Betio. Only at one time 
during the morning did the demoralized 
remnants of the Japanese garrison offer any 
resistance. At a point 350 yards beyond the 
eastern end of the airfield a concentration 
of pillboxes and fire trenches held up the 
advance of Company I. On the left Lt. Col. 
Kenneth F. McLeod, the battalion com- 
mander, immediately moved Company L 
around the right of the strong point, leav- 
ing the position to be mopped up by Com- 
pany I, and proceeded with only one 
company in the advance. At 1310 the bat- 
talion reached the island's tip. Four hun- 
dred and seventy-five Japanese were 
reported killed during the advance. 96 

The last organized Japanese resistance 
on Betio was to cease a few minutes later. 
By 1000 on the fourth day, the 1st Battal- 
ion, 8th Marines, and the 3d Battalion, 2d 
Marines, had joined to form a semicircular 
attack upon the position on the boundary 
between Red Beaches 1 and 2. To accom- 
plish the juncture, a platoon of marines, 
under the command of Maj. Hewitt D. 
Adams and supported by two 75-mm. 
guns, waded out onto the reef in front of 
the emplacement and made a direct frontal 
assault on the strong point, eliminating 
completely the positions that faced the 
lagoon. 97 The 3d Battalion, 2d Marines, 
then advanced toward the beach. One last 
pillbox had to be destroyed, and the weary 
marines moved to mop up the stragglers 
still holding out in holes and shelters. Ma- 
jor Schoettel then notified division head- 
quarters that the task was complete. 98 

At 1330 the same afternoon, General 
Smith announced the end of organized re- 



sistance on Betio. 99 Three jobs still re- 
mained, however, before the Gilberts 
operation could be considered completed: 
the rest of the islands of Tarawa Atoll had 
to be taken; Apamama Atoll must be cap- 
tured; and Abaiang, Marakei, and Maiana 
Atolls occupied. 

Conclusion of the Operation 

During the afternoon of 23 November, 
the 2d Battalion, 6th Marines, which had 
moved from Bairiki to Betio during the 
morning, learned that it was to mop up 
the remaining islands of Tarawa Atoll. At 
0500 on 24 November it embarked for 
Buota Island to begin the northward 
march up the atoll. It was expected that 
approximately a hundred Japanese would 
be found somewhere along the eastern leg 
of the atoll. A thorough search on 24 No- 
vember failed to reveal the enemy, how- 
ever, and a continued march on 25 
November brought the battalion to Bua- 
riki, the northernmost island of the atoll, 
where enemy troops were at last encoun- 
tered. Here, on the evening of 26 Novem- 
ber and throughout the following day, a 
sharp engagement was fought in which 
approximately 150 Japanese were killed at 
a cost of 32 American dead and 60 
wounded in action. 100 

Abaiang, Maiana, and Marakei Atolls 
lie respectively north, south, and northeast 
of Tarawa. On 29 November Company D, 

95 1st Bn 6th Marines Special Action Rpt, 3 Dec 43, 
p. 6. 

96 6th Marines Special Action Rpt, 20 Dec 43, 
Narrative Rpt of Opns of Landing Team 3d Bn 6th 
Marines, pp. 3, 4. 

97 Stockman, Tarawa, p. 58. 

68 3d Bn 2d Marines Action Rpt, p. 3. 

99 Stockman, Tarawa, p. 59. 

100 6th Marines Special Action Rpt, 20 Dec 43, 
Narrative Account of Opns of 2d Bn 6th Marines, 21- 
29 Nov 43, pp. 1-2. 



156 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



2d Tank Battalion, was dispatched aboard 
the mine sweeper Pursuit to reconnoiter 
these atolls on the assumption that they 
might be sheltering Japanese coastwatch- 
ers. On Abaiang, five Japanese were 
flushed out but managed to escape by 
boat. On the other two atolls only natives 
were discovered. 101 

Apamama, an atoll lying seventy-six 
miles south of Tarawa, was captured by 
the V Amphibious Corps Reconnaissance 
Company, less one platoon. Carried to 
their destination aboard the submarine 
Nautilus, the company landed on the atoll 
in rubber boats in the early morning of 21 
November. Aided by naval gunfire from 
their submarine as well as from an escort- 
ing destroyer, the marines were able to 
complete the occupation of the atoll by 24 
November. The operation yielded twenty- 
three Japanese dead, mostly by their own 
hands. Next day General Hermle, in com- 



mand of a landing force built around the 
3d Battalion, 6th Marines, relieved the 
reconnaissance company and completed 
the organization of the atoll's defenses. 
Thus from Makin southward 180 miles to 
Apamama the whole island chain consti- 
tuting the northern Gilberts was captured 
or occupied by the American forces. The 
capture of Tarawa yielded an estimated 
4,690 Japanese killed, and 17 Japanese 
and 129 Korean prisoners of war. Marine 
Corps casualties, including killed, wound- 
ed, and missing in action, came to 3,301 . 102 
This was a high price to pay for a few hun- 
dred acres of coral. Yet in the minds of 
most American military planners and 
strategists the cost of the capture of the 
Gilberts was justified both in the terms of 
the strategic gains realized and the tactical 
lessons learned. 

101 Stockman, Tarawa, p. 65. 

102 Ibid., p. 12. 



CHAPTER X 



Strategic and Tactical 
Significance of the Gilberts 
Operation 



Strategic Consequences 

Writing some six years after the event, 
General Holland Smith posed the question, 
"Was Tarawa worth it?" "My answer," he 
said, "is unqualified: No." General Smith 
continued: 

From the very beginning the decision of the 
Joint Chiefs to seize Tarawa was a mistake 
and from their initial mistake grew the terri- 
ble drama of errors, errors of omission rather 
than commission, resulting in these needless 
casualties. . . . Tarawa had no particular 
strategic importance. . . . Tarawa should 
have been by-passed. Its capture . . . was a 
terrible waste of life and effort. . . . [We] 
should have let Tarawa "wither on the vine." 
We could have kept it neutralized from our 
bases on Baker Island, to the east, and the 
Ellice and Phoenix Islands, a short distance 
to the southeast. 1 

General Smith was alone among high- 
ranking officers to voice this opinion. Ad- 
mirals King, Nimitz, and Spruance, as well 
as General Julian Smith, were all in agree- 
ment that the capture of Tarawa and 
Makin was a necessary prelude to the 
invasion of the Marshalls. 2 

The strategic value of the Gilberts lay in 
their geographic proximity to the Mar- 



shalls and therefore in their utility as air 
bases for the forthcoming operations in the 
Central Pacific. Before launching the Gil- 
berts campaign, the United States had no 
airfields within range of the Marshalls, the 
closest being at Funafuti in the Ellice 
Islands and at Canton — 1,300 and 1,600 
nautical miles from Kwajalein, respec- 
tively. The occupation of Baker Island and 
Nanomea, which was incident to the cap- 
ture of the Gilberts, closed this range 
somewhat and allowed American planes to 
operate from bases about 1,020 and 1,050 
nautical miles from Kwajalein. But even if 
these islands could have been held without 
the elimination of the Japanese air poten- 
tial in the Gilberts, which is in itself doubt- 
ful, Baker and Nanomea were still too 
distant from the Marshalls to allow steady 

1 Smith, Coral and Brass, pp. 111-12. 

- Admiral King, Official Rpt Covering Combat 
Opns Up to March 1, 1944, p. 42; Admiral Nimitz, 
quoted in New York Sun, November 16, 1948, Sec. II, 
p. 1; Admiral Spruance, Address to the Royal United 
Service Institution, London, October 1946, quoted in 
Capt. Walter Karig, USNR, Lt. Comdr. Russell L. 
Harris, USNR, and Lt. Comdr. Frank A. Manson, 
USN, Battle Report, Vol. IV, The End of an Empire 
(New York: Rinehart & Company, 1948), p. 77; Lt. 
Gen. Julian C. Smith, USMC (Ret), "Tarawa," United 
States Naval Institute Proceedings, LXXIX (1953), 
1 163-76. 



158 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



bombing and photographic reconnais- 
sance. The capture of key islands in the 
Gilberts halved the distance between 
American airfields and Kwajalein and 
made possible the effective employment of 
land-based aircraft against that target. 
Almost immediately upon completion of 
infantry fighting in the Gilberts, naval Sea- 
bees and Seventh Air Force engineers com- 
menced work on airfield construction at 
Tarawa and Makin. By 18 December the 
field at Makin was well enough along to 
base its first planes. Less than a week later 
two fields at Tarawa (one on Betio and one 
on Buota) were ready to fly and service 
bombers. By mid-January a field at Apa- 
mama was in operation. 3 

The completion of these airfields in the 
Gilberts changed the entire character of 
operations against the Marshall Islands. 
The long-distance raids with light bomb 
loads now gave way to shorter flights with 
heavier loads, and allowed flights of planes 
with shorter ranges. Medium bombers, 
attack bombers, and fighters were brought 
into the attack. Army Air Forces B-25's 
(medium bombers) were based at Tarawa 
and Apamama; A-24's (fighter-bombers) 
and P-39's (fighters) were based at Tarawa 
and Apamama; A-24's and P-39's were 
brought to Makin; and P-40's (fighters) 
were based on Makin and Apamama. 
Most of the B-24 (heavy bomber) squad- 
rons that had been bombing the Gilberts 
and southern Marshalls were moved to 
Tarawa by the first week in January. Ad- 
vance headquarters of the VII Bomber 
Command and of the VII Air Service 
Command were set up at Tarawa by 7 
January. 

During November the B-24's, which 
were then carrying the entire load alone, 
had totaled 237 sorties against the Gilberts 
and Marshalls. In December these planes, 



able to stage through Tarawa late in the 
month, flew 365 bombing and photo- 
graphic sorties against the Marshalls alone. 
They were augmented by the B-25's that 
were brought to Tarawa on 28 December 
and the A-24's based at Makin. 

The Gilbert bases allowed the use of 
land-based fighters for the first time in the 
Central Pacific. The two P-39 squadrons 
and the one P-40 squadron based at Makin 
and Apamama accompanied bombing 
sorties over the Marshalls from the day 
they arrived in the Gilberts. In addition to 
protecting the heavier planes, the fighters 
also bombed and strafed Japanese installa- 
tions and shipping. No longer did B-24's 
have to assume sole responsibility for land- 
based photographic and bombing missions 
against the Marshalls. Those of shorter 
range could be turned over in part to me- 
dium bombers and fighters based in the 
Gilberts. Also, the shortened distances be- 
tween the new forward bases and the B-24 
targets in the Marshalls allowed the heavy 
bombers to fly with still heavier loads and 
more frequently. 4 Finally, as Admiral 
Spruance pointed out, the superior photo- 
graphic techniques of land-based aviation 
made possible a more accurate picture of 
terrain, hydrographic conditions, and 
enemy defenses in the Marshalls than could 
otherwise have been obtained. 

Tactical Lessons Learned 

The Gilberts operation, especially the 
invasion of Tarawa, was the first instance 
in the Pacific war of a large-scale amphibi- 
ous assault against a well-fortified shore 
line. Before the outbreak of the war the 

3 Operational History of the Seventh Air Force, 6 
Nov 43-31 Jul 44, p. 14; Graven and Gate, AAFIV, 
pp. 303-04. 

4 Operational History of the Seventh Air Force, 6 
Nov 43-31 Jul 44, pp. 14-19; Craven and Gate, AAF 
IV, pp. 304-06. 



SIGNIFICANCE OF THE GILBERTS OPERATION 



159 



United States armed forces, chiefly the 
Navy and the Marine Corps, developed a 
systematic doctrine for landing waterborne 
troops on hostile shores, supporting them 
both before and after the landing by naval 
guns and carrier-based air, and providing 
the necessary logistical support by overseas 
shipping. This doctrine had been set forth 
in abundant detail in a series of military 
manuals published by the two services. 5 
Yet, until Tarawa, it had never been put to 
a severe test in the Pacific. The landings in 
the Solomons, New Guinea, and the Aleu- 
tians had all been conducted against light 
opposition or no opposition at all. Tarawa 
was the first occasion in the Pacific war 
when the enemy had heavily fortified the 
beachhead that had to be seized if the 
attacking force was to achieve its objective. 

The fact that the atoll was captured with 
acceptable casualties (about 20 percent) 
provided incontestable proof that Ameri- 
can amphibious doctrine was sound and 
that the most formidable island fortress 
could be taken even with the relatively 
slender means then available to Allied 
forces in the Pacific. Just as significant, 
however, as the ultimate success of the 
invasion were the various deficiencies in 
equipment and techniques and the errors 
in execution that the operation revealed. It 
was the experience gained in the Gilberts, 
coupled with a tremendous expansion of 
all U.S. arms in the Pacific, that made the 
more nearly perfect execution of subse- 
quent amphibious operations possible. 

Naval Support 

According to the later testimony of 
Admiral Hill, the "first and foremost" 
among lessons learned during the Gilberts 
operation was "that naval task forces ac- 
companying the assault forces had the 



power to move into an area, obtain com- 
plete naval and air control of that area, 
and remain there with acceptable losses 
throughout the entire assault and prelimi- 
nary consolidation phases." "This," he 
continued, "is a lesson which had never 
been demonstrated before the Gilberts 
operation and which formed the basis for 
all subsequent operations in the Central 
Pacific Area." 6 

Just as the invasion of Tarawa demon- 
strated that naval task forces could seize 
control of the air and sea long enough to 
support a successful landing, so did it indi- 
cate that a period of preliminary naval fire, 
much longer than a few hours, was neces- 
sary if all beach defenses were to be elimi- 
nated or effectively neutralized. The con- 
sensus among observers at Tarawa was that 
the three hours allotted for preliminary 
naval bombardment was insufficient. 7 Any 
hopes that had been pinned on the ability 
of naval gunfire and aerial bombardment 
to "obliterate" the target proved false. In 
spite of the more than 3,000 tons of explo- 
sives thrown at or dropped on the island of 
Betio immediately before the landing, the 
majority of Japanese weapons there were 
still in operation when the troops reached 
shore. 

5 The most important of these manuals were The 
Tentative Manual for Landing Operations (Marine 
Corps School, Quantico, 1934); Fleet Training Pub- 
lication 167, Landing Operations Doctrine, United 
States Navy (Office of Naval Operations, Division of 
Fleet Training, 1938); and Basic Field Manual 31-5, 
Landing Operations on Hostile Shores (War Depart- 
ment, 1941). For the prewar evolution of amphibious 
doctrine, see Isely and Crowl, U.S. Marines and Am- 
phibious War, pp. 14-71. 

6 Ltr, Adm Hill to Gen Malony, 14 Feb 49, p. 4, 
OCMH. 

7 Ibid., pp. 4-5; V Phib Corps Galvanic Rpt, pp. 
16-17; Ltr, CG 2d Marine Div to CG V Phib Corps, 
4 Jan 44, sub: Recommendations Based on Tarawa 
Opn, Recommendation 5, Naval Gunfire, p. 1, A 
7-17, 2d Mar Div/Recommendation Tarawa, Gilbert 
Area files, Hist Branch, G-3, Hq USMC. 



160 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



The difficulty was that there were too 
many targets to be destroyed for the time 
allowed. Naval ships had time to deliver 
pinpoint destructive fire only against such 
well-defined targets as coastal defense 
weapons and heavy antiaircraft batteries. 
If the beach preparation had been spread 
over a longer period of time, with slower 
fire to allow ships to observe their targets 
and determine the effectiveness of that fire, 
it would have been far more effective. As it 
was, with the limited time available, ships' 
guns had to resort to mere area bombard- 
ment, or neutralization fire, long before it 
could be accurately determined how many 
of the enemy's guns had been actually 
knocked out of action. Neutralization is 
not destruction, as the marines who went 
ashore soon discovered. One solution for 
the deficiencies of naval gunfire at Tarawa 
was clear. For naval ships effectively to 
support landing operations they would 
have to deliver slow, deliberate, pinpoint 
fire against selected targets and maintain 
constant observation of the damage actu- 
ally done by their salvos. This would re- 
quire time — more time than w ? as allotted 
to the support ships at either Tarawa or 
Makin. 

Another conclusion in respect to naval 
gunfire support that emerged from the 
Tarawa operation w r as that an insufficient 
proportion of major-caliber armor- piercing 
shells was employed by the firing ships. 
Against the steel-reinforced concrete pill- 
boxes found on Betio, 5 -inch antiaircraft 
and 6-inch bombardment shells had little 
effect. For future operations against well- 
fortified positions of this sort, it was recom- 
mended that greater reliance be put on the 
heavy guns of battleships and that a larger 
proportion of armor-piercing shells be 
employed. 8 

Still another deficiency in both the plan 



and the execution of preliminary naval 
gunfire at Tarawa was the rapid shifting ol 
fire from one target to another. This wa; 
based on the principle of keeping the 
enemy guessing as to where to jump next 
by placing fire into areas in an unpredict- 
able sequence. Experience at Tarawa 
showed that although this type of bom- 
bardment was useful for neutralization, it 
failed to achieve the degree of destructive- 
ness desired. Destructive fire called for 
accurate control, which was rendered im- 
possible by sudden, large, and frequent 
shifts of fire. For future operations, it was 
recommended that less radical shifting be 
employed, and that naval fire be laid di- 
rectly toward or away from, and right or 
left of an established reference point. Thus, 
it was believed, more accurate fire control 
could be maintained and greater damage 
be done to well-covered enemy emplace- 
ments. y 

Also at Tarawa, naval gunfire on the 
beaches was lifted too soon. One reason for 
this was to permit a last-minute aerial 
strafing and bombing run along the shore 
line, but the precaution was unnecessary. 
Actually, the planes did not fly low enough 
to be endangered by ships' gunfire. The 
desirability of a last-minute naval barrage, 
more effective than aerial bombardment, 
was clearly demonstrated. At Makin this 
had been partially provided for by equip- 
ping some of the leading amphibian trac- 
tors with 4.5-inch rockets, which were fired 
to good effect on Yellow Beach. 10 At Tara- 
wa only two small support craft (LCS's) 

""^CINCPAC-GINCPOA Galvanic Opns, Prelimi- 
nary Study of Action Rpts, 31 Dec 43, p. 2: TF 53 Rpt 
of Tarawa Opns, 13 Dec 43, Incl A, p. 49; Ltr cited 
n. 7. Recommendation 5, Naval Gunfire, p. 1. 

y TF 53 Rpt of Tarawa Opns. 13 Dec 43, Incl A, 
p. 45. 

1D Ltr, Hq 27th Inf Div to CG V Phib Corps, Rpt 
of Opns Galvanic, 18 Dec 43, p. 7. 



SIGNIFICANCE OF THE GILBERTS OPERATION 



161 



were furnished with rockets. These were 
fired from the flanks of the leading wave 
with indeterminate effects. An alternative 
to a last-minute rocket barrage would have 
been the employment of armored amphib- 
ians (amphibian tanks) in the first wave. 
These could be equipped with 37-mm. or 
75-mm. guns and would have provided 
excellent close support fire for the assault 
waves. Another device that was clearly 
suggested by the landing on Betio was the 
continued employment of destroyer fire in 
support of the leading waves until just be- 
fore the landing. In the one instance where 
this was done, on Red Beach 3 at Tarawa, 
casualties to the troops in the ship-to-shore 
movement were reduced to a minimum. In 
the opinion of General Julian Smith, close 
support fires by destroyers should have 
been maintained all along the beach until 
the troops were within a hundred yards of 
the shore line. 11 

These various deficiencies in both the 
quantity and quality of naval preparatory 
fire at Tarawa pointed up a corollary les- 
son — the desirability of an early landing of 
artillery on islands adjacent to the main 
target to assist the attendant naval ships 
and aircraft in laying down a heavy bom- 
bardment preliminary to the principal 
landings. The configuration of Central 
Pacific atolls was such as to make this tac- 
tic feasible, other conditions permitting. In 
every case the larger islands, which were 
invariably the most heavily fortified, were 
separated by only short distances from 
smaller neighboring islets within easy ar- 
tillery range. During the invasion of 
Tarawa it was not thought practicable to 
emplace artillery on the islets adjacent to 
Betio well in advance of the main landing 
for the same reason that it was not believed 
wise to provide for a more prolonged pre- 
liminary naval bombardment — the fleet 



should not be exposed to enemy action any 
longer than could possibly be helped. By 
the time that the Marshall Islands were 
invaded this danger was no longer so 
acute, and it was possible for the planners 
of those operations in each case to make 
provision for placing artillery on the 
smaller islets of the atolls some hours be- 
fore the initial landings on the main 
islands. 12 

Close Air Support 

Clearly, the most disappointing aspect 
of the entire Tarawa operation was the 
execution of air support for the landing. 
The inadequacy of air support was attrib- 
uted in about equal measure to poor com- 
munications, poor co-ordination, and the 
poor training of the carrier pilots. 

The plans called for a dawn strike on 
the beaches from 0545 to 0615. This strike 
was twenty-five minutes later than was ex- 
pected by the ground troops and naval 
surface forces present. Admiral Hill's sup- 
port aircraft commander aboard the flag- 
ship Maryland was unable to establish com- 
munication with the striking groups to 
determine their status. Maryland's main 
batteries were firing and the concussion 
apparently disrupted her radio communi- 
cations. The majority of planes attacked 
between 0610 and 0620. 

The H-Hour air strike was scheduled 
for the period from H minus 5 to H plus 
15 minutes, with H Hour set at 0830. At 
0820 the air groups were informed that H 
Hour would be delayed untU 0900. This 
change of plans was either not received or 
was disregarded by the planes, and fighters 
commenced strafing the beaches at 0825 
as originally scheduled. At 0842 they were 

11 Ltr cited n. 7, Recommendation 2, Ship-to-Shore 
Movement, pp. 12-13. 

12 See below, Ch. XI, pp. 19, 27. 



162 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



finally reached and directed to cease firing. 
At 0855, on the anticipation that H Hour 
would be, 0900, surface ships were directed 
to stop firing and fighters were ordered to 
strafe the beaches. In fact, the fighters did 
not arrive to strafe until just before 0910, 
and by that time the first troops were com- 
ing ashore and the mission had to be can- 
celed. 13 

In addition to the poor co-ordination of 
air support with the other arms, it was evi- 
dent that the carrier squadrons were not 
fully enough trained to provide efficient 
air support of amphibious operations. One 
carrier commander reported that carrier 
flights operated over the target area on D 
Day with little semblance of orderly pro- 
cedure. Serious confusion resulted when 
dive and glide bombing and strafing was 
carried out to the taste of the individual 
leaders. 14 Pilots experienced considerable 
difficulty in locating and striking targets 
as requested, both before and after the 
troops landed. It became apparent that 
the pilots had not been thoroughly briefed 
and that they lacked sufficient knowledge 
of the general techniques employed by 
landing forces in an amphibious operation. 
One solution to the problems thus raised 
was suggested by General Holland 
Smith — to assign at least one Marine air- 
craft wing specifically to give direct air 
support to landing operations. The wing, 
he recommended, should make direct air 
support a specialty, should train specifi- 
cally for that purpose, and should be given 
a complete background of amphibious op- 
erations and a period of thorough training 
in the problems peculiar to air support of 
landings. 15 

Communications 

The failure of communications aboard 
the battleship Maryland on several critical 



occasions during the landing on Betio 
served to point clearly to the need for spe- 
cially constructed and equipped head- 
quarters ships in future amphibious oper- 
ations. The simple fact was that no battle- 
ship was suited to perform the duties im- 
posed on Maryland. Her transmitters, 
receivers, and antennae were too close to- 
gether and caused mutual interference. 
Several of her radio communications in- 
stallations were so damaged by the shock 
of her own naval guns as to be completely 
inoperative. Furthermore, if a situation 
had arisen where the vessel would have 
had to leave the immediate area of Tarawa 
to engage in a surface fleet action, the 
ability of both Admiral Hill and General 
Julian Smith to exercise command would 
have been seriously impaired. 16 

All of these shortcomings were well 
recognized before the operation. Specially 
equipped headquarters ships were already 
under construction, but none was ready in 
the Pacific in November 1943. The ships 
would make their appearance in the Mar- 
shall operations, but until they were com- 
pleted the only alternative was to make 
the best of the means available. The ex- 
perience with Maryland at Tarawa merely 
confirmed what had already been real- 
ized — that the battleship was inadequate 
as an amphibious command ship. 17 

The other outstanding communications 
deficiency revealed in the Gilberts oper- 
ation was in tank-infantry liaison. On 
Tarawa as at Makin the communications 
equipment carried by the tanks broke 

13 TF 53 Rpt of Tarawa Opns, 13 Dec 43, Incl A, 
p. 55; V Phib Corps Galvanic Rpt, p. 15. 

14 CINCPAC-CINCPOA Galvanic Opns, Prelimi- 
nary Study of Action Rpts, p. 5. 

15 V Phib Corps Galvanic Rpt, p. 1 6. 

16 TF 53 Rpt of Tarawa Opns, 1 3 Dec 43, Incl A, 
pp. 22, 54-55, 62. 

17 Ltr cited n. 6, Adm Hill to Gen Malony, p. 5, 
OCMH. 



SIGNIFICANCE OF THE GILBERTS OPERATION 



163 



down completely. Tanks could communi- 
cate neither with each other nor with the 
infantry units they were supposed to be 
supporting. On Betio not a single member 
of a tank crew was killed inside a tank, but 
several became casualties getting out of 
their tanks in an effort to communicate 
with infantrymen. This deficiency could 
only be remedied by the installation of im- 
proved radio sets. 18 

Weapons 

At Tarawa the 37-mm. gun, which was 
mounted on the light tank, proved virtu- 
ally useless in knocking out pillboxes and 
various other enemy emplacements. How- 
ever, fire delivered from the light tank was 
effective for holding the enemy down while 
infantry advanced. Whatever its merits in 
this connection, the light tank was gener- 
ally incapable of the duties imposed on it. 
The consensus among most commentators 
was that in future operations against the 
Japanese the light tank be replaced by the 
medium tank mounting a 75-mm. gun. 19 

Perhaps the most valuable weapon at 
Tarawa proved to be the flame thrower. 
The greatest obstacle facing the troops in 
their advance was the extensive layout of 
Japanese pillboxes and heavy emplace- 
ments. Against these, flame throwers firing 
through ports and pillbox entrances 
proved invaluable. However, not enough 
had been assigned to the 2d Marine Divi- 
sion, and it was recommended that for 
future operations at least one per rifle pla- 
coon be issued. Another suggestion made 
as a result of this experience was that tanks 
be equipped with large-capacity flame 
throwers. 20 

Logistics 

The plans for unloading supplies and 
equipment on Betio followed the standard 



doctrine as set forth in current naval 
manuals on the subject. 21 Control over 
small boats was vested in the commander 
of the naval transport group and priority 
in unloading was given to the assault 
transport division on which were em- 
barked the assault troops. Each assault 
landing team had a shore party that was 
to function on its own beach, the 2d Ma- 
rine Division shore party commander 
co-ordinating the activities of the separate 
shore parties. Parallel to the division shore 
party commander was a naval senior 
beachmaster whose job was to co-ordinate 
the activities of three platoons of naval 
personnel assigned to unloading duties on 
the beach and to advise the transport 
group commander on the best methods of 
getting supplies and equipment from ship 
to shore. 

As events worked out, none of these 
plans could be put into effect until late on 
the second day of the operation. During 
most of the first two days of fighting, the 
beachhead was neither deep enough nor 
safe enough to allow shore parties to func- 
tion normally. Boats, on returning to par- 
ent ships, were loaded and dispatched to 
various beaches without awaiting the call 
of shore party commanders. Direct re- 
quests placed by the troops to the ships did 
not give adequate information and there- 
fore many boats were loaded with nones- 
sential materiel. Finally and most impor- 
tant, there was an insufficient number of 
control stations established off the beaches 



ls Ltr cited n. 6, Recommendation 4, Tanks, pp. 

5, 7. 

19 Ibid., p. 8; V Phib Corps Galvanic Rpt, p. 17; 
Ibid., Incl G, Rpt by Special Observers, Part A, Rpt 
by Brig Gen James L. Underhill, USMC, p. 9, and 
Part F, Rpt by Maj Clifton A. Woodrum, Jr., 
USMCR, p. 2. 

20 V Phib Corps Galvanic Rpt, p. 17; Ltr cited n. 

6, Recommendation 4, Tanks, p. 8. 

21 Fleet Training Publications 167 and 211. 



164 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



to regulate the traffic of boats returning to 
the beach after their initial trips. 

Much of this confusion was of course 
unavoidable, given the extreme difficulties 
of establishing the beachhead. The whole 
concept of the shore party in amphibious 
doctrine presumes the establishment of a 
protected area along the shore line suffi- 
cient in depth to permit the physical un- 
loading of boats and the dumping of 
supplies and equipment on land in a rela- 
tively orderly fashion at places where 
troops can get what they need when they 
need it. None of these conditions obtained 
during the first two days of fighting on 
Betio. Yet this was not all that was amiss. 
Even had a comparatively safe beachhead 
been established, the offshore control sys- 
tem was inadequate to meet the require- 
ments imposed on it. 

Hence, it was recognized that in future 
operations control boats should be sta- 
tioned at or near the line of departure for 
the purpose of directing traffic to and from 
the beach. After the initial assault, only 
such equipment and supplies as would 
probably be immediately required ashore 
should be boated and the boats should 
then be dispatched to a central control 
vessel offshore for assignment to separate 
beaches. The control vessels, it was recom- 
mended, should be under control of a 
senior naval officer assisted by an officer 
representing the landing force. In this 
manner, it was hoped, much of the confu- 
sion evident at Tarawa could be avoided. 22 

One final logistical lesson that was 
pointed up by the Gilberts operation was 
the desirability of pallet loading in am- 
phibious landings. Pallets had been used 
extensively at Makin and with excellent 
results. 23 None had been made available 
to the 2d Marine Division for Tarawa and 
the lack had been noted. Holland Smith's 



headquarters concluded, "pallets are un- 
questionably necessary in landing oper- 
ations," and set forth immediately to pro- 
vide Marine divisions with the requisite 
number for future landings. 24 

The Amphibian Tractor 

Of all types of amphibious equipment 
used in the Gilberts operation, the am- 
phibian tractor was the most indispensable. 
"Without the amphibian tractor," re- 
ported Holland Smith, "it is believed that 
the landing at Tarawa would have 
failed." 25 Speaking from his experience at 
Makin, General Ralph Smith concurred. 
"The use of amphibian tractors in this 
type of operation," he said, "is considered 
mandatory to insure success and reduce 
casualties. . . . Their necessity cannot be 
over-emphasized." 26 

Yet if the presence of these vehicles 
spelled the difference between success and 
failure in the Gilberts, it remained true 
that there were not enough on hand, at 
least at Tarawa. The 125 amphibian trac- 
tors assigned to the 2d Marine Division 
were not enough. Only the first three as- 
sault waves could be initially carried 
ashore by amphtracks. Subsequent waves 
boated in standard Navy landing craft 
were stopped at the reef, and the troops 
had to wade into the beach or await trans- 
fer to LVT's. Thus, the momentum so 
necessary to amphibious assault against a 
well-defended shore line was halted. The 



22 TF 53 Rpt of Tarawa Opns, 13 Dec 43, Incl A, 
pp. 21-22; Ltr cited n. 7, Recommendation 2, Ship- 
to-Shorc Movement, pp. 5-6. 

23 Ltr, Hq 27th Inf Div to CG V Phib Corps, Rpt 
of Opns Galvanic, 16 Dec 43. 

24 V Phib Corps Galvanic Rpt, p. 13; Ibid., Incl D, 
p. 3. 

23 V Phib Corps Galvanic Rpt, p. 12. 
28 Ltr cited n. 10. 



SIGNIFICANCE OF THE GILBERTS OPERATION 



165 



result was only short of disaster for the at- 
tacking troops. 

General Julian Smith recommended 
that in the future no less than three hun- 
dred troop-carrying LVT's be furnished 
each Marine division, plus an additional 
twenty-five for cargo-carrying purposes. 27 
Admiral Nimitz concurred. 28 Never again 
in the Pacific war would the assault troops 
be so handicapped as they had been at 
Tarawa for lack of these essential vehicles. 

Conclusion 

Strategically speaking, the Gilberts op- 
eration was not a turning point in the 
Pacific war. It was only a prelude to the 
invasion of the Marshalls, which in turn 
was a prelude to more decisive naval and 
land victories in the Carolines and the 
Marianas. The chief strategic significance 
of this operation is that it was the begin- 
ning of the Central Pacific drive against 
Japan. It had been decreed by the Joint 
Chiefs of Staff that the Central Pacific 
drive would constitute the "main effort" in 
the Pacific war. 

Largely because of the limited means 
available to Admiral Nimitz' forces, the 
drive was initiated not against the geo- 
graphic center of Japanese power in the 
mid-Pacific, but against the perimeter. 
Yet victory in the Gilberts certainly paved 
the way for the relatively easy conquests 
in the Marshalls that were to follow. Air 
bases were obtained without which ade- 



quate bombardment and photographic 
reconnaissance of these more important 
targets would have been difficult if not im- 
possible to obtain. 

Tactically speaking, the Gilberts land- 
ings, especially that on Tarawa, were 
chiefly important as a testing ground of 
established amphibious doctrine. Never 
before in the Pacific war had such an ex- 
perimental opportunity presented itself. 
After Tarawa there was no doubt that the 
techniques, tactics, and procedures set 
forth in the basic U.S. manuals for land- 
ing operations were workable even under 
the most difficult conditions. Some short- 
comings and deficiencies in the execution 
of the landings were revealed. The most 
serious deficiencies stemmed from short- 
ages of amphibious equipment and from 
lack of sufficient naval power or previously 
emplaced artillery to permit as prolonged 
a period of preliminary bombardment as 
was desirable. These could only be cor- 
rected as production of the necessary arms 
caught up with the needs of the Central 
Pacific drive. Meanwhile, avoidable errors 
and omissions in execution were carefully 
noted and studied by all echelons con- 
cerned in the Gilberts operation. And, 
what is more important, steps were im- 
mediately taken to avoid their repetition 
in the future. 

27 Ltr, CG 2d Marine Div to CG V Phib Corps, 27 
Dec 43, sub: Recommendations Based on Tarawa 
Opn, Recommendation 1, Amphibian Tractors, p. 2. 

28 CINCPAC-CINCPOA Galvanic Opns, Prelimi- 
nary Study of Action Rpts, 3 1 Dec 43, p. 1 1. 



CHAPTER XI 



Tactical Planning for 
the Marshalls 



In projecting the initial drive into the 
Central Pacific, it had always been under- 
stood that the first big prize would be the 
capture of st rategic positio ns in the Mar- 
shall Islands. (See Map 2.) These consist of 
32 island groups and 867 reefs scattered 
over more than 400,000 square miles of 
ocean. The islands lie in two roughly par- 
allel chains about a hundred miles apart. 
The northeastern chain, called Ratak — 
meaning "sunrise" — contains the large 
atolls of Mille, Maloelap, and Wotje. The 
southwestern or "sunset" chain is called 
Ralik and contains Jaluit, Kwajalein, 
Rongelap, Bikini, and Eniwetok, as well as 
numerous smaller atolls. Kwajalein is lo- 
cated approximately in the geographic 
center of the group at longitude 167 30' 
east and latitude 9° north. From Pearl 
Harbor it is about 2,100 nautical miles in a 
southwesterly direction. Tarawa lies 565 
miles to the southeast. Slightly south of 
west and about 980 miles away is Truk, 
which was believed to be the key bastion of 
the Japanese in the Carolines. 

All of the islands are coral and most of 
them are atolls, each consisting normally 
of a low-lying chain of islands connected 
partially by reefs and surrounding a 
lagoon. Most of the lagoons are circular in 
formation and have good passages through 
the reefs. The largest coral atolls in the 



world are found in this part of the Pacific. 
The coral chain of some of the larger atolls 
extends upward of a hundred miles, en- 
circling vast areas of water. The individual 
islands contained in the atolls are small, 
rarely more than two or three miles in 
length, quite narrow, and flat, never rising 
to more than a few feet above sea level. 
The larger islands are covered with coco- 
nut palms, breadfruit trees, and pandanus. 
The smaller ones are barren or covered 
only with brush. 1 

The first European contact with the 
Marshalls dates back to the period of 
Spanish and Portuguese explorations in 
the sixteenth century. The Marianas were 
discovered by the Spaniards in 1521, the 
Carolines by the Portuguese in 1527, and 
the Marshalls by the Spanish naviga- 
tor Miguel de Saavedra in 1529. In 1686 
the Marshalls were formally annexed by 
Spain and remained nominally attached 
to that nation until late in the nineteenth 
century. Then the German Empire began 
to expand its influence into the South Seas 
and in the 1890's commenced negotiations 
with Spain for transfer of her holdings in 



1 Intelligence Center Pacific Ocean Areas 
(ICPOA), Bull 30-43, Enemy Positions Marshall-Gil- 
bert Area, Vol. I, Marshall Islands, Ralik Chain, pp. 
7-11; R. W. Robson, The Pacific Islands Tear Book 
(Sydney, Australia: Pacific Publications, Ltd., 1943) 
p. 99. 



TACTICAL PLANNING FOR THE MARSHALLS 



167 



the area. The latter's defeat in the Span- 
ish-American War sounded the death 
knell to Spain's long-moribund empire in 
the Pacific. She agreed to dispose of all her 
possessions in the Marshalls, Carolines, 
and Marianas to Germany except for 
Guam, which was ceded to the United 
States. The Germans commenced a vigor- 
ous colonization policy interrupted only 
by the outbreak of World War I. 2 

In October of 1914 the Japanese Navy 
commenced the seizure and occupation of 
the main islands in this area. In December 
of the following year, a military head- 
quarters was established at Truk, and the 
islands were divided into six administra- 
tive districts, each governed by a resident 
garrison commander. At the conclusion of 
the war all of the islands of the North 
Pacific formerly under German possession 
were turned over to Japan as a Class C 
mandate as provided in Article 22 of the 
Covenant of the League of Nations. Under 
the terms of the mandate, Japan was 
bound to prevent "the establishment of 
fortifications or military and naval bases," 
and the neutralization of other islands in 
the Pacific was further guaranteed by a 
treaty between Japan and the United 
States in 1922. 3 The manner in which the 
Japanese Empire honored these commit- 
ments will be treated later. 4 

Early Planning 

Initial planning for the Marshalls inva- 
sion necessarily had to be conducted con- 
currently with that for the Gilberts opera- 
tion, which would precede it, yet everyone 
concerned realized that final plans could 
not be matured until after the Gilberts 
had been occupied. One of the chief rea- 
sons for taking those islands was, after all, 
to provide bases from which the Marshalls 



could be more easily bombed and photo- 
graphed. 

Nevertheless, as early as August 1943, 
Admiral Nimitz requested of the Joint 
Chiefs of Staff a specific directive authoriz- 
ing him to seize the Marshalls. His reasons 
were that the necessary strength appeared 
to be available, that the islands would pro- 
vide bases for further advance toward 
communications lines vital to the enemy, 
that Allied lines of communication to the 
South and Southwest Pacific would there- 
by be strengthened, that the operation 
might precipitate a fleet action with the 
enemy on favorable terms, and that it 
should cause the Japanese to divide their 
available forces among various theaters. 
"Thus," he concluded, "we get on with 
the war." 5 

On 1 September the Joint Chiefs, as was 
expected, dispatched an affirmative an- 
swer to Admiral Nimitz. He was ordered 
to seize and control the Marshalls and, on 
completion, seize or control Wake, Eni- 
wetok, and Kusaie (the easternmost island 
of the Carolines). The purposes of the 
operation, as stated in the Joint Chiefs di- 
rective, were to be fourfold: (1) to prepare 
to gain control of the Carolines; (2) to in- 
flict losses on the enemy; (3) to improve 
the security of the lines of communication; 



2 Robson, Tear Book, p. 91. 

3 The Japan Year Book, 1940-41 (Tokyo: The Japan 
Times Press), pp. 917-18; Denys P. Myers, Handbook 
of the League of Nations (Boston: The World Peace 
Foundation, 1935), p. 378; International Military 
Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE), International 
Prosecution Section (IPS) Document 625 7, Prepared 
Statement and Report on Japanese Naval Prepara- 
tions 1931-1941, p. 13. The proceedings of the 
IMTFE and attached documents are filed in the Law 
Library, Office of the Judge Advocate General, De- 
partment of the Navy. 

4 Ch. XIII, below. 

5 Ltr, CINCPAC-CINCPOA to COMCENPAC, 
22 Sep 43, Serial 00190, Incl A, CINCPAC to 
COMINCH, 20 Aug 43, Serial 00151. 



168 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



and (4) to support other operations in the 
Pacific and Indian Ocean theaters by ex- 
tending pressure on the Japanese. The 
target date was to be 1 January 1944, al- 
though this was made contingent upon the 
successful completion of operations in the 
Gilberts. Ground troops assigned to the 
landing and capture of the principal 
islands were to be the 4th Marine Divi- 
sion, the 22d Marine Regiment (rein- 
forced), and the 7th Infantry Division. 6 

Nimitz then proceeded to prepare a 
study of the forthcoming operation and 
recommended that the advance into the 
Marshalls be accomplished by the simulta- 
neous seizure of Kwajalein, Maloelap, 
and Wotje Atolls. Maloelap and Wotje 
were on the eastern fringe of the group, 
closest to Pearl Harbor, while Kwajalein 
was roughly in the geographic center. 
These three atolls, according to Nimitz' 
estimate, contained 65 percent of the air- 
craft facilities in the Marshalls. The re- 
maining 35 percent, located chiefly on 
Jaluit and Mille, could, it was estimated, 
be easily neutralized by operations from 
the center. 7 

The code name settled upon for the 
Marshalls operation was Flintlock, and 
immediately upon receipt of the Joint 
Chiefs directive, appropriate staffs set to 
work devising tentative plans for the land- 
ings. As planning progressed it soon be- 
came apparent in Pearl Harbor that the 
Central Pacific forces would be unable to 
meet the original target date of 1 January 
1944. On 25 October Admiral Nimitz 
wrote Admiral King in Washington, 
"With considerable regret I now recom- 
mend that the Flintlock target date be 31 
January, although every effort will be 
made to anticipate the date given." 8 The 
reasons set forth for the desired delay were 
that troop training would be incomplete; 



that time would have to be allowed to re- 
pair damage done to ships returning from 
the Gilberts operation; that the Gilberts 
bases would not be ready in time to be 
useful against the Marshalls; and, finally 
and most important, that more time was 
needed for photographic reconnaissance. 

As further intelligence of the proposed 
target in the Marshalls became available 
and as news of the difficulties of the Gil- 
berts operations reached Pearl Harbor, 
Admiral Nimitz proposed another radical 
revision of the original Flintlock plan. 
Instead of attacking Wotje, Maloelap, and 
Kwajalein simultaneously, he proposed 
bypassing the former two atolls and con- 
centrating all his forces against Kwajalein 
Atoll. In this he was opposed by all the 
other Central Pacific commanders con- 
sulted on the matter, except for Rear 
Adms. Charles H. Mc Morris and Forrest 
P. Sherman of his own staff. 9 Admiral 
Spruance later recollected: 

I argued as strongly as I could with Admiral 
Nimitz against Kwajalein, proposing instead 
Wotje and Maloelap. My argument was 
based ... on the insecurity of our line of 
communications in to Kwajalein after the 
withdrawal of the Pacific Fleet. . . . With 
the air pipe line through Eniwetok open back 
to Japan and with the activity which had 
been shown by Japanese air in the Marshalls 
in their attacks on our fleet forces during the 
Gilberts operation, I felt that our support 
shipping moving into Kwajalein would have 



6 Ltr, CINCPAC-CINCPOA to GOMCENPAC, 
22 Sep 43, Serial 00190, Incl B, Dispatch, JCS to 
GINCPAC, 1 Sep 43. 

7 Ltr, CINCPAC to CINCPOA, 22 Sep 43, Serial 
00190, Incl C, CINCPAC Strdy of Marshalls Opn. 

8 Ltr, CINCPAC-CINCPOA to COMINCH, 25 
Oct 43, Serial 00247. 

9 Ltr, Adm Nimitz to Jeter A. Isely,. 18 Jan 49; 
Interv, Isely with Adm Hill, 29 Oct 48; Ltr, Adm 
Spruance to Isely, 3 Jul 49; all filed in Princeton 
University Library; Ltr, Gen Richardson to Gen 
Malony, 31 Jan 49, OCMH. 



TACTICAL PLANNING FOR THE MARSHALLS 



169 





KWAJALEIN ATOLL 



! ■ . 



KWAJALEIN I 



MAP 8 

a tough time of it. In my arguments I was 
supported by Admiral Turner and General 
Holland Smith, but I was overruled by 
Admiral Nimitz. 10 

Thus, Nimitz alone was responsible for 
initiating the decision to hit straight into 
the center of the Marshall Islands. Events 
were to prove his boldness justified; the 
dangers feared by his more cautious ad- 
visers never materialized. 

The Joint Chiefs approved these changes 
recommended by the theater commander 
and, on 14 December, Admiral Nimitz 
issued his revised Operation Plan 16-43, 
which definitely assigned Kwajalein Atoll 
as the target in the forthcoming operation. 
The 7th Infantry Division was to take the 



southern group of islands in the atoll, in- 
cluding Kwajalein Island. The 4th Ma- 
rine Division was to capture Roi-Namur 
and the other northern islands of the 
atoll. 11 (Map 8) Roi-Namur, lying at the 
northeastern corner of Kwajalein Atoll, is 
about forty-four nautical miles from Kwa- 
jalein Island, which is at the southeastern 
corner. 

One final change in the plan was made 
on 26 December. Admiral Spruance, after 
being overruled on the question of bypass- 
ing Wotje and Maloelap, asked that 
Majuro, one of the easternmost of the 



10 Ltr, Spruance to Isely, 3 Jul 49. 

11 CINCPAC-CINCPOA Opn Plan 16-43 (Re- 
vised), 14 Dec 43. 



170 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



Marshalls, be included as an additional 
objective. He wanted the atoll at the earli- 
est possible moment as a fleet base, and he 
believed that airfields constructed there 
would help cover the line of communica- 
tions to Kwajalein. A Navy reconnaissance 
plane flying over that area in early De- 
cember had drawn no antiaircraft fire and 
had seen no activity, thus leading Nimitz 
to believe that if a Japanese garrison was 
there, it was small. Hence, it was agreed to 
send a small expeditionary force consisting 
of 2d Battalion Landing Team of the 106th 
Infantry with the 1st Marine Defense Bat- 
talion attached, and the Reconnaissance 
Company of V Amphibious Corps to oc- 
cupy the atoll. 12 D Day for all landings 
was to be 3 1 January 1 944. 

Spruance's Plan 

As always in the Central Pacific, the 
highest operational command for the 
Marshalls invasion went to Admiral Spru- 
ance, now designated Commander, Fifth 
Fleet (Task Force 50). 13 Once again Ad- 
miral Turner commanded the Joint Ex- 
peditionary Force (Task Force 51). Com- 
mand of the expeditionary troops fell to 
General Holland Smith (Task Force 56). 
General Smith's position in the chain of 
command in relation to Admiral Turner 
was made clearer than it had been in the 
Gilberts operation, and his authority was 
more precisely defined. 14 He was put in 
direct command of all landing forces and 
garrison forces once they were ashore. The 
troop commanders of each of the landing 
forces, that is of the 7th Infantry Division 
and the 4th Marine Division, were ex- 
pressly placed under General Smith until 
such time as Admiral Spruance should de- 
termine that the capture and occupation 
phase of the operation had been com- 



pleted. However, General Smith's author- 
ity as commander of expeditionary troops 
had one limitation. Since it was recognized 
that "the employment of troops, including 
the reserve troops engaged in the seizure of 
objectives, is subject to the capabilities of 
the surface units to land and support 
them," any directives issued by General 
Smith as to major landings or as to major 
changes in tactical plans had to have the 
approval of Admiral Turner before they 
could be issued. To this extent, the expedi- 
tionary troops commander was still sub- 
ordinate to Admiral Turner. 15 

Immediately subordinate to Admiral 
Turner as Commander, Expeditionary 
Force, were the three attack forces. The 
Southern Attack Force (Task Force 52), 
commanded also by Admiral Turner, was 
assigned the task of capturing Kwajalein 
Island and the surrounding islands in the 
southern half of the atoll. The Northern 
Attack Force (Task Force 53), commanded 
by Rear Adm. Richard L. Conolly, was 
charged with the capture of Roi-Namur 
and all other islands in the northern half 
of the atoll. The Majuro Attack Group 
(Task Group 51.2) was to be commanded 
by Admiral Hill. 

Under Holland Smith's immediate com- 
mand were the three landing forces, one 
assigned to each of the major objectives. 
The Southern Landing Force (Task Group 
56. 1), composed primarily of the 7th In- 
fantry Division, was commanded by Maj. 

12 Ltr, Spruance to Isely, 3 Jul 49; V Phib Corps 
Flintlock Rpt, Incl B, G-5 Rpt, p. 4; Rad, 
CINGPAC-GINCPOA toJCS, 17 Dec 43. 

13 COMCENPAG Opn Plan Cen 1-44, 6 Jan 44. 
Spruance's old designation, Commander, Central 
Pacific Force, and his new title, Commander, Fifth 
Fleet, were used interchangeably in the planning 
stage of the Marshalls operation. 

14 See above, Gh. II, pp. 43-46. 

15 COMCENPAC Opn Plan Gen 1-44, 6 Jan 44, p. 
18. 



TACTICAL PLANNING FOR THE MARSHALLS 



171 



Chart 2 — Task Organization of Major Commands for the Attack on Kwajalein 

and Majuro Atolls 



Tod 


Fa,« SD 







I 



Tmlt For« SB 
Oiniti Fo<ti 
Rtor Adm M A. Mivithst 



Toik Group 50. IS 



lot Fq 



! Forw 



Tali f o«« 57 
DcfanLt Fwttono' 
Lc-.d-Bond A« 
R«, AM j. K Ho»t. 



Hq S»ppwl Aircraft 
Cop. H B. f 



Tail. fort. 36 
Eipvdir^onoriy Troops 

MaiGmH. M. Wh.USMC 



Fotk Fotti S3 

S*ullkiin AllocU fatrt 
R«or Adm R. K, Tum«r 





c< S3 


Northern Al 


ock For« 


Rwr Ada R 


L. Conotly 







Toil. Group 16.1 



I control during londing phost 

[Ln|rt>S o£«*r ground !ctC*3 Off Tttgtlilh^J rjjhoi* 



Tail Group 56.5 
JoiiWirt Landing Fore* 

, Gt» H, Sck-*. uW 



TouV Group 51.4 
Souir^rn Garmon Group 

Cop* H, O- Ro«ch 



leilc Group 51 .6 
Nebcin Gorrison Group 1 



Tqi!- G :•«, S! :: 
iura Dtltr.it Group 
Lt Comdr Uf 



Toil Group 51.! 

Apod Gm„F 

Rror AdmH.W, Hhfi 



Teit Group 51 .5 
Nonhim Orients Group 
L.i Gmrtr WFmlrr 



To* Group Si .9 
Gamion Group 

Cop) Lnii* 



Gen. Charles H. Corlett, USA. The North- 
ern Landing Force (Task Group 56.2), 
consisting of the 4th Marine Division with 
attached units, was commanded by Maj. 
Gen. Harry Schmidt, USMC. The Majuro 
Landing Force, commanded by Lt. Col. 
Frederick B. Sheldon, USA, was made up 
of the 2d Battalion, 106th Infantry, and 
the V Amphibious Corps Reconnaissance 
Company. At each objective the attack 
force commander (naval) was to command 
the landing force through the landing 
force commander (ground troops) until 
the situation permitted the latter to as- 
sume command ashore. 

Under Admiral Spruance and parallel 



to Admiral Turner were three other com- 
mands. The first was the newly organized 
Carrier Force (Task Force 58), under Rear 
Adm. Marc A. Mitscher, which comprised 
four groups of fast carriers each with a 
varying number of the newest and fastest 
battleships, cruisers, and destroyers. The 
second was the Neutralization Group 
(Task Group 50.15), under Rear Adm. 
Ernest G. Small, consisting of three heavy 
cruisers, four destroyers, and two mine 
sweepers. The third was named Defense 
Forces and Land Based Air (Task Force 
57) and was commanded by Admiral 
Hoover. Its chief components were the 
Strike Command (Task Group 57.2) under 



172 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



General Hale, consisting of eleven land- 
based Army bomber squadrons; three 
Army fighter squadrons; and a Marine 
Search and Patrol Group (Task Group 
57.3) under the command of General 
Merritt. 

As outlined in Admiral Spruance's plan, 
the jobs assigned to Mitscher's fast carrier 
force were manifold. The force was to 
move into the Marshalls area on 29 Janu- 
ary (D minus 2) and destroy enemy air- 
craft and air facilities at Wotje, Maloelap, 
Roi-Namur, and Kwajalein. The follow- 
ing day it was to co-ordinate air operations 
against Wotje and Maloelap with bom- 
bardment of those islands by cruisers from 
Turner's task force and Small's Neutraliza- 
tion Group. At the same time, other ships 
of Mitscher's force would deliver both air 
and surface bombardment against Roi- 
Namur and Kwajalein Islands. Concur- 
rently, Eniwetok was to be denied to the 
enemy as an airfield. On D Day (31 Janu- 
ary) the force was to furnish air support 
over Kwajalein Atoll as requested by Ad- 
miral Turner. 

The job of softening up the target islands 
as well as other islands in the Marshalls 
group was assigned to Admiral Hoover's 
task force. Before the fast carriers moved 
into the area the land-based planes of Task 
Force 57 were to keep Mille and Jaluit 
neutralized; destroy enemy aircraft and air 
facilities at Roi-Namur, Kwajalein, and 
Maloelap; mine the waters around Jaluit, 
Mille, Maloelap, and Wotje; furnish air 
support at Kwajalein on D Day as re- 
quested by Admiral Turner; and be respon- 
sible for the photographic reconnaissance 
of the Marshalls as directed by Admiral 
Nimitz. From 25 December through D Day 
they were to search the entire Marshalls 
area for enemy plane and ship movements, 
attack enemy ships and shipping, protect 



the Ellice and Gilbert Islands, and provide 
air transportation. Finally, to this head- 
quarters was assigned the duty of develop- 
ing the advance bases in Kwajalein and 
Majuro once these had been captured by 
ground and naval forces. 

Finally, Admiral Small's little force of 
cruisers and destroyers was ordered to 
operate off the atolls of Wotje and Maloe- 
lap and bombard those islands intermit- 
tently commencing on 29 January. The 
purpose of this maneuver was to deny the 
enemy the use of his airfields there. 16 

Admiral Turner's Attack Plan 

The plan for the invasion of the Mar- 
shalls differed in many important details 
from that for any previous amphibious 
operation in the Pacific. The differences 
resulted partly from the experiences gained 
in the Gilberts and partly from the fact 
that by this time a far greater quantity and 
variety of amphibious equipment had been 
made available to the Central Pacific 
forces. 

No longer did the attack force com- 
manders have to rely on the faulty com- 
munications systems of battleships to 
maintain proper radio liaison between ship 
and shore and ship and air. Two newly 
constructed headquarters ships, each 
equipped with the latest developments in 
radio and radar gear and unburdened by 
gunfire support duties, were provided for 
this operation. Admiral Turner at Kwaja- 
lein carried his flag aboard the USS Rocky 
Mount and Admiral Conolly at Roi-Namur 
rode the USS Appalachian. In addition, Ad- 
miral Hill was given a new flagship, the 
APA Cambria, which had been partially 
converted into a headquarters ship. 



Ibid., pp. 14-16. 



TACTICAL PLANNING FOR THE MARSHALLS 



173 



In the interim between the Gilberts and 
Marshalls invasions, several improvements 
were made in the techniques of softening 
up the enemy defenses before the first 
troops touched shore. These all added up 
to one factor: a great increase in both the 
quantity and accuracy of fire power to be 
delivered before the invasion. Provision 
was made for a longer period of prelimi- 
nary aerial bombardment both from the 
newly acquired island bases in the Gilberts 
and from the newly organized fast carrier 
force. Naval ships and planes were ordered 
to move into the target area and shell and 
bombard enemy installations one day be- 
fore the initial landings in the Marshalls 
and a full two days before the main land- 
ings were executed. Also, provision was 
made to land field artillery on islands 
adjacent to Kwajalein Island and Roi- 
Namur a day before these two main objec- 
tives were assaulted by ground troops. The 
field pieces were to be registered on the 
larger islands in time to support the assault 
troops as they moved from ship to shore. 

To provide a last-minute saturation of 
the beaches, two new, or rather modified, 
forms of older types of amphibious equip- 
ment were introduced. The first of these 
was the armored amphibian or amphibian 
tank (LVT(A)). 17 This vehicle was merely 
the standard amphibian tractor equipped 
with extra armor plating and mounting a 
37-mm. gun housed in a turret. It was to 
precede or accompany the first wave of 
troops from the line of departure to the 
shore and provide extra fire support for 
them. The second was the LCI gunboat 
(LCI(G)). This little vessel (153 feet in 
length), originally designed to land infan- 
try troops at the shore line, had been con- 
verted into a gunboat by the addition of 
three 40-mm. guns and banks of 4. 5-inch 
rocket launchers. The LCI(G)'s were to 



precede the first wave of amphibian vehi- 
cles close into shore, firing their rockets 
and guns in an effort to knock out any 
enemy personnel and machine guns that 
might still be functioning on the beaches 
after the heavier naval and aerial fire had 
lifted. 

Finally, a sufficient number of amphib- 
ian tractors was provided to the battalion 
landing teams to permit them to land their 
assault waves in toto. This, it was hoped, 
would provide the necessary momentum to 
the assault, so noticeably lacking at Tara- 
wa, and would eliminate the necessity of 
transferring assault troops from landing 
craft to amphibian tractors at the reef line. 

To transport the troops and equipment 
of the 7th Infantry Division to Kwajalein 
Island, Admiral Turner was able to plan 
on a total of 1 1 attack transports, one troop 
transport ship, 3 attack cargo ships, 2 land- 
ing ships dock to carry the tanks, and 16 
LST's to carry amphibian tractors and 
trucks. To escort these ships to the target 
area and provide naval and aerial support, 
mine sweeping, and other functions, he 
had 4 old battleships, 3 heavy cruisers, 
21 destroyers, 2 high-speed transports 
(APD's), 3 escort carriers, 12 LCI's (land- 
ing craft, infantry), and 4 mine sweepers 
(AM's and DMS's). About the same num- 
ber of troop and cargo ships were assigned 
to Admiral Conolly's Northern Attack 
Force to transport the 4th Marine Division 
to Roi-Namur. Conolly's support shipping 
was less than Turner's by one old battle- 
ship, one heavy cruiser, and eleven de- 
stroyers, but in partial recompense he was 
awarded two light cruisers. The Majuro 
Attack Group under Admiral Hill con- 
sisted of one heavy cruiser, two escort car- 

17 In Marine Corps terminology, this vehicle was 
called the armored amphibian tractor; in the Army 
it was called the amphibian tank. 



174 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



riers, four destroyers, one mine sweeper, 
one attack transport, one troop transport, 
and two high-speed transports. The attack 
force reserve group, which carried the 22d 
Marine Regiment and the two battalions 
of the 106th Infantry Regiment not as- 
signed to Majuro, consisted of five attack 
transports, one troop transport, two attack 
cargo ships, and seven destroyers. 18 

Admiral Turner's plan called for exten- 
sive prelanding bombardment both from 
surface ships and from the air. On D minus 
1 (30 January) eight battleships from 
Mitscher's fast carrier force, accompanied 
by about a dozen destroyers, were to de- 
liver a dawn bombardment against Kwa- 
jalein Island and Roi-Namur. The object 
was to destroy aircraft, coast defense guns, 
and personnel, and to render the airfields 
temporarily useless. At the same time, two 
advance units of cruisers and destroyers 
from Turner's task force were to bombard 
the airfields at Wotje and Maloelap. These 
dawn bombardments were to be followed 
by air strikes against each of the objectives. 
After the strikes were completed the surface 
ships would again take up the bombard- 
ment and maintain a steady fire until 
about noon. 19 

On D Day (31 January) the schedule 
called for initial landings on islands adja- 
cent to Kwajalein and Roi-Namur upon 
which artillery could be emplaced for the 
main assaults. Cruisers, old battleships, 
and destroyers of Turner's task force were 
to conduct an all-day bombardment 
against both the smaller islands and the 
main targets in order to support landings 
on the smaller islands, to destroy coastal 
batteries, antiaircraft defenses, and beach 
defenses on the main islands, and to con- 
tinue the destruction of aircraft and air- 
field installations. Fifteen minutes before 
the first wave of boats was scheduled to hit 



the shore at Carlson (Enubuj), 20 which lies 
just northwest of Kwajalein Island, flights 
of torpedo bombers, dive bombers, and 
fighter planes were to deliver a last-minute 
attack against the beaches. A similar strike 
was to be delivered against Ivan (Mellu) 
and Jacob (Ennuebing) Islands, which lie 
southwest of Roi-Namur. 

On D plus 1(1 February) cruisers and 
battleships and as many destroyers as 
could be spared from screening duties were 
to conduct bombardments in support of 
the main landings on Kwajalein and Roi- 
Namur. Other islands that could be used 
by the Japanese to interfere with these 
landings were to be kept neutralized by 
surface bombardment. At daylight the 
heavy ships were to open up with counter- 
battery fire to protect the transports as they 
unloaded the troops, and with area bom- 
bardment to destroy secondary defenses 
behind the beaches. As H Hour ap- 
proached, destroyers and LCI gunboats 
were to move into very close range of the 
beaches. Close supporting fire for advanc- 
ing boat waves as they moved in to the 
shore line was to be delivered by cruisers 
firing 8-inch and 5-inch shells from me- 
dium ranges and by destroyers and 
LCI(G)'s at close ranges. Cruisers were 
ordered to cease fire when the first wave 
was about 1,000 yards from the beach. 
Destroyers and LCI(G)'s were to continue 
fire until the first landing wave was 500 
yards or less from the beach. Thereafter 
they would shift to the flanks to protect 
succeeding waves. 

Commencing forty-five minutes before 

18 TF 51 Opn Plan A6-43, 3 Jan 44, Serial 00 1 3. 

19 Ibid., Annex C. 

20 Carlson is the code name used by the American 
forces. In this volume the code names and, sometimes, 
the native names (in parenthesis) will be used to 
identify the lesser islands of Kwajalein Atoll. See list, 
p. 375. 



TACTICAL PLANNING FOR THE MARSHALLS 



175 



the first waves touched shore, air strikes by 
the maximum available number of planes 
were to be carried out against the main 
landing beaches both at Kwajalein Island 
and at Roi-Namur. These were to cease 
twenty-five minutes before the first wave 
touched shore in order to allow a resump- 
tion of ships' fire and of artillery fire from 
Carlson, Ivan, and Jacob. In addition to 
this air support provided by planes from 
the escort carriers in Turner's task force, 
Admiral Hoover's Task Force 57 was 
ordered to provide one squadron of land- 
based heavy bombers to attack various 
strong points and blockhouses, commenc- 
ing sixty minutes before the first landings 
on the main islands. 21 With this tremen- 
dous bombardment by aircraft, surface 
ships, and artillery, all to be executed be- 
fore the first troops hit the shore line, it was 
hoped that the bitter experience of Tarawa 
would not be repeated. 

The Landing Force Plans 
Southern Kwajalein 

Kwajalein Island is shaped like a cres- 
cent, its concave side being the lagoon or 
north shore. It is approximately two and a 
half miles in length and averages 800 yards 
in width for two thirds of its length from 
west to east, then tapers, after bending to 
the north, to less than 300 yards in width 
at its northeastern tip. It is the largest 
island of the atoll. 22 The island nearest to 
the western end of Kwajalein is Carlson 
(Enubuj), approxim ately two miles to the 
northwest. {Map 9) Next to the northeast- 



surveys showed that Carlson was weakly 
defended if at all, while the Burton garri- 
son was estimated to be at least 1,000 
troops. Closer scrutiny of Burton also re- 
vealed extensive prepared positions. It was 
estimated that there were eight antiaircraft 
guns near the ramps and service apron, 
and the island seemed to be ringed by a 
series of pillboxes. In the opinion of Gen- 
eral Corlett, 7th Division commander, and 
of his division artillery officer, Brig. Gen. 
Archibald V. Arnold, the artillery could be 
placed on either Carlson or Burton and 
deliver fire on the landing beaches in sup- 
port of the main assault on Kwajalein 
Island. The absence of defenses on Carlson 
made this island seem to be the more de- 
sirable, but in order to utilize the fire power 
of the division artillery to the fullest, it was 
necessary to decide at exactly what spot on 
Kwajalein Island the assault troops were 
to go ashore. Should the landing beaches 
be toward the northeastern end of the 
island, Burton would serve better for artil- 
lery emplacements, even though it was 
defended. 

The reef along the ocean side of Kwaja- 
lein Island is from 100 to 130 yards wide 
and precipitous. At low tide it is completely 
bared and fairly smooth except near the 
ends of the island. Heavy surf strikes the 
eastern shore and rolls along the southern 
shore, but at the southwestern corner the 
swell becomes moderate, a circumstance 
that favored landings in that area. On the 
lagoon side, although the water is smooth, 
the reef is from 500 to 800 yards wide. 
Boulders and smooth coral outcroppings 



ern end are two tiny pieces of land, Byron 
and Buster Islands (no known native 
names), then the larger Burton (Ebeye), 
which is nearly two and a half miles from 
Kwajalein. Photographs and intelligence 



21 TF 51 Opn Plan A6-43, 3 Jan 44, Serial 0013, 
Annexes C, E. 

22 Terrain data are from 7th Infantry Division Re- 
port on Operation Flintlock 3 1 January-4 Febru- 
ary 1944 (hereafter cited as 7th Inf Div Flintlock 
Rpt), Vol. II, Field Orders and Report of Operation, 
FO 1, 6 Jan 44, Intelligence Annex. 




— — 



Co^n(Eni«gBnl,QgeJop I) 




Clifford I Legon 11 



ClemenHMgnr*] 
Clorence pencil 



Crtestijr\i 



Cecil (Nmnin^ - ,ce cl1 
Carter iGeo 
CorloitErtnricftegon ll^^j 



SOUTHERN KWAJALEIN 

L 1 1 , , J 

nautical miles 



Asti berry iGtllirtcm l) 



CorltorXEtiubuj I) 




Bef.MlKB.gq I) 



Senior. 
Bcrlm f Mortn Gugcgwo) 
Beverly (South Gu g e 9 *t I 



KWAJALEIN I 



TACTICAL PLANNING FOR THE MARSHALLS 



177 



promised to make the approach to the 
lagoon beaches even more difficult than 
those at Tarawa or at Red Beaches, Makin. 
The beaches along both the ocean and the 
lagoon shore vary normally from ten to 
twenty yards in width after rising from the 
reef. At the two tips of the island, however, 
the beaches rise more gradually and are 
considerably more extensive, a smooth 
beach of coral sand extending for approxi- 
mately 250 yards inland at the northeast- 
ern tip and 450 yards at the western end. 

It was generally believed that the Mar- 
snails, having been prewar Japanese terri- 
tory and being nearer to the heart of Japan, 
would be more strongly fortified than the 
Gilberts. Should the prepared positions 
that had furnished such a costly obstacle at 
Tarawa be excelled by those on Kwajalein 
Island, the forthcoming attack would have 
to be carefully planned to strike the weaker 
portions of the Japanese defensive system. 
The preliminary reconnaissance had shown 
that the enemy had apparently long ex- 
pected attack from the seaward side. But 
photographs taken on 4 December showed 
that the garrison had begun the erection 
of positions along the lagoon, apparently 
on the ground that Tarawa had been at- 
tacked from the lagoon shore and an inva- 
sion of Kwajalein might possibly come 
from the same direction. 

After weighing these various considera- 
tions, the planners decided that the 7th 
Infantry Division should land at either end 
of the island rather than in a frontal attack 
against either the ocean or lagoon shore 
line. Because reef and surf conditions were 
more favorable at the western end, and 
because Carlson Island would probably be 
much easier to take quickly than would 
Burton, plans were laid for the division to 
land on the beaches at the western extrem- 
ity. This would take place after the D-Day 



invasion of Carlson Island, where the divi- 
sion artillery would be placed to support 
the main landing on Kwajalein. 23 Such a 
course of action would give the assault 
troops on Kwajalein Island the benefit of 
high-angle artillery fire to supplement the 
fire of the flat-trajectory naval guns. 

Three other small islands in addition to 
Carlson were to be captured during the 
preparatory phase of the operation. These 
were Carlos (Ennylabegan), Carter (Gea), 
and Cecil (Ninni) Islands, all lying north 
of Carlson. They guarded Cecil Pass, the 
best deep-water channel into the lagoon at 
southern Kwajalein, and were thought to 
be lightly defended, if at all. It was Admiral 
Turner's desire to move many of the trans- 
ports and fire support vessels into the 
lagoon, where they would be protected 
from submarine attack and where naval 
gunfire could be brought to bear directly 
on the lagoon beach defenses. The 7th 
Division's operation order, therefore, called 
for the capture of four islands during Phase 
I, which was to begin on D Day, 31 Janu- 
ary. 24 Artillery was to be landed on Carl- 
son and moved into firing position at the 
earliest possible moment after troops had 
landed. 

The assault on Kwajalein Island, the 
main objective, was to take place on the 
morning of D plus 1 (1 February) if, by 
then, Carlson had been captured and the 
artillery placed in position. By close plan- 
ning between division artillery representa- 
tives, Army and Navy air services, and 
naval gunnery officers, all bombardment 
and naval gunfire and Army artillery sup- 
port were carefully co-ordinated for the 
support of the main attack. Following a 
preliminary (prelanding) bombardment of 
one hour, each type of fire would lift in- 

23 Ibid., FO 2, 6 Jan 44. 

24 Ibid., FO 1, 6 Jan 44, p. 1. 



178 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



land. Army artillery would be nearest in 
advance of the troops; naval gunfire next; 
and the aerial coverage still farther in- 
land. 25 

The 7th Division had no organic 155- 
mm. howitzer battalions, but during the 
planning stage the 145th Field Artillery 
Battalion was attached for the operation. 
During the night of D Day (3 1 January- 1 
February) the 145th and two other field 
artillery battalions were to deliver interdic- 
tory fire from Carlson on all the principal 
fortified areas of Kwajalein Island and 
place counterbattery fire on any enemy 
artillery that might be emplaced on Bur- 
ton. They were also to fire general support 
missions for the infantry. 26 

The reduction of Kwajalein Island itself 
was to constitute Phase II of the 7th Divi- 
sion operations. In the allocation of targets, 
the 7th Division had been assigned all 
islands south of the line running between 
Arnold Island in the eastern side of the 
atoll and Cohen (Ennugenliggelap) Island 
in the western side. Of these, Burton was 
believed to be the only one besides Kwaja- 
lein defended by a sizable garrison. 

Plans for Phases III and IV to complete 
the conquest of southern Kwajalein were 
laid, but the time of execution was to de- 
pend upon progress made in Phase II. The 
forces that were to seize Cecil, Carter, 
Carlos, and Carlson on D Day would then 
constitute a reserve for landing teams oper- 
ating on Kwajalein Island. 27 Once the 
need for this reserve had passed, the forces 
could be committed in Phase III, the re- 
duction and occupation of Burton Island 
and the investigation of Buster, Byron, 
Burnet, and Blankenship (Loi) Islands. 
The final phase was to include the seizure 
of Beverly (South Gugegwe), Berlin (North 
Gugegwe), Benson, and Bennett (Bigej) 
Islands in the eastern chain. 28 



To accomplish its mission at southern 
Kwajalein, the 7th Division was organized 
into nine battalion landing teams, each 
consisting of three rifle companies, a heavy 
weapons company, a platoon of engineers 
from the 13th Engineer Battalion, a pla- 
toon of medium tanks from the 767th Tank 
Battalion, a platoon from one of the regi- 
mental cannon companies, and small de- 
tachments of service troops. 29 A tenth 
landing team, for use against small objec- 
tives, was formed by the 7th Cavalry 
Reconnaissance Troop and Company B, 
1 1 1th Infantry, a regiment that was part 
of the prospective Kwajalein Garrison 
Force but had been attached to the divi- 
sion for the assault phase of the operation. 
In the event that a battalion landing team 
was called upon to act separately, it could 
be made self-sufficient by the addition of a 
shore party team. 

With the prospect of different elements 
of the division operating at widely scat- 
tered points in the atoll and depending on 
many varied arms for support, communi- 
cations promised to be a major difficulty. 
This problem was anticipated. A provi- 
sional communications unit, known as the 
75th Joint Assault Signal Company 
QASCO), was organized for the 7th Divi- 
sion, and elements of the 295th JASCO 
were furnished to the 106th Regimental 
Combat Team. 30 The 75th Provisional 
JASCO, made up of the 75th Signal Com- 
pany reinforced by naval and air force 

25 Ibid., FO 2, Annex 6, p. 1. 

26 7th Inf Div Flintlock Rpt, Vol. XII, Arty Jnl, 
Msg 35, 31 Jan 44. 

27 7th Inf Div Flintlock Rpt, Vol. II, FO 1, 6 Jan 
44, p. 2. 

28 Ibid., FO 4, 1 Feb 44. 

29 Ibid., FO 1, 6 Jan 44, Annex 1, p. 5. 

30 US AFICPA Report of Participation in the Kwa- 
jalein and Eniwetok Operations, 30 Nov 44 (hereafter 
cited as USAFICPA Participation Rpt Kwajalein 
and Eniwetok), pp. 143, 144. 



TACTICAL PLANNING FOR THE MARSHALLS 



179 



personnel, totaled 592 officers and men. It 
was to co-ordinate naval gunfire support 
missions and direct air strikes, whether 
performed by land-based bombers of the 
Army Air Forces or carrier-based planes of 
the Navy. It was also the channel through 
which troops ashore communicated with 
command posts afloat. 

For operational purposes the 75th Pro- 
visional J ASCO was divided into a head- 
quarters, ten shore and beach party teams, 
and nine shore fire control teams. Each of 
the shore and beach party teams would 
serve with a battalion landing team and 
would be made up of thirty-two men, 
drawn from both Army and Navy. The 
nine shore fire control teams, composed of 
Navy officers and Army signal men, were 
to be distributed among the nine assault 
landing teams. Also operating with, but 
not a part of, the 75th JASCO were thir- 
teen air-ground liaison teams of five men 
each. Each battalion received one of these 
teams, the other four being apportioned 
among the various regimental headquar- 
ters and division artillery. Seventy-nine 
men of the 75th Provisional JASCO were 
retained by division headquarters to per- 
form administrative functions and co- 
ordinate work of the various teams. 

For the Kwajalein Island operation, 
enough LVT's were provided to carry the 
first four waves of assault troops into the 
beach. A total of 174 amphibian vehicles 
was assigned to the 7th Infantry Division. 
Of these, 79 were amphibian tanks (or 
armored amphibians) mounting 37-mm. 
guns and designed primarily for close sup- 
port of the first waves both during and 
after the ship-to-shore movement. The re- 
mainder were standard amphibian trac- 
tors. For this operation, the tanks and 
tractors were divided into four combat 
tractor groups, each with 14 amphibian 



tanks and 20 amphibian tractors, plus one 
additional detachment of 17 amphibian 
tanks to be distributed among the four 
groups as the situation required. Twenty- 
one vehicles were placed in a reserve LVT 
pool that was to provide immediate re- 
placement to the combat tractor groups. 
One of the tractor groups was assigned to 
the D-Day landings on Carlson Island and 
one to Carlos Island. Two were assigned to 
Kwajalein Island for the D-plus-1 land- 
ings. After carrying the troops of the first 
four assault waves to the beaches, the trac- 
tors of these groups were either to support 
the infantry advance inland, or, in the case 
of Kwajalein Island, were to return to the 
reef line and pick up reserve troops boated 
in standard landing craft. 31 By these meas- 
ures, it was hoped to guarantee an uninter- 
rupted movement of the assault troops from 
ship to shore and an avoidance of the 
breakdown of momentum such as had 
occurred at Tarawa. 

The first phase of the operations of the 
Southern Attack Force was to open with a 
predawn landing of one platoon of the 7th 
Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop on each of 
the two channel islands, Carter and Cecil. 
These landings were to be accomplished 
with the greatest secrecy, and the conquest 
of the outposts was to be completed as 
quickly as possible before the defenders 
could reinforce the garrisons that might be 
there. The reconnaissance troop was em- 
barked on two high-speed transports 
(APD's), along with two platoons of Com- 
pany B, 1 1 1th Infantry. The landings were 

31 7th Inf Div Flintlock Rpt, Vol. II, FO 1, 6 Jan 
44, Annex 8, pp. 1-2, and FO 2, 6 Jan 44, Annex 8, 
pp. 1-2; Ibid., Vol. VII, G-4 Rpt, Annex E, Ordnance 
Rpt, p. 5; 7th Infantry Division Report of Participa- 
tion in Operation Flintlock, 8 Feb 44 (hereafter 
cited as 7th Inf Div Participation Rpt Flintlock), p. 
34; 708th Amph Tk Bn Special Action Rpt, Kwaja- 
lein Opns, 12 Mar 44, pp. 1-2. 



180 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



to be made in rubber boats that would be 
paddled ashore from 800 yards off the 
beaches. The men would go over the side 
of the APD's into their landing craft and 
land at 0330. It was hoped the capture 
would be completed shortly after daylight. 
The next moves of the first phase were to 
be the simultaneous landings on Carlos 
and Carlson Islands. The 1st Battalion, 
17th Infantry, was to land on the former 
while the 2d Battalion, 17th Infantry, in- 
vaded the latter. The 3d Battalion, 17th 
Infantry was to be held in reserve, ready to 
go to the aid of either landing team. While 
the capture of Carlson Island was in prog- 
ress, the division artillery, loaded for the 
most part on amphibious trucks, was to 
debark and proceed to a rendezvous area 
offshore. Upon a signal from the com- 
mander of the Carlson landing force, the 
guns were to be moved ashore and into 
position. 

The major part of the Southern Attack 
Force plan was that dealing with Kwaja- 
lein Island, the main objective. After the 
landing on the western tip of the island 
with the two regimental combat teams 
abreast— the 184th on the left and the 32d 
on the right — the attack was to proceed 
directly up the axis of the island with the 
boundary between regiments drawn 
roughly along a line that divided the island 
into halves. In the left zone of action the 
assault force would consist of the 2d and 
3d Battalions, 184th Infantry; in the right 
zone the 1st Battalion, 32d Infantry, was 
to make the initial landings. The 1st Bat- 
talion, 184th Infantry, and the 2d and 3d 
Battalions, 32d Infantry, were to be held 
either at the line of departure or in the 
lagoon ready for use in later aspects of the 
attack. 

Phases III and IV were dependent upon 
the progress of the attack on Kwajalein 



Island. The 17th Regimental Combat 
Team, upon conclusion of the Carlson and 
Carlos invasions, was to be held as division 
reserve for the landings on the main island. 
If it became evident that operations there 
were going well and the 17th would not be 
needed, the capture of the remaining 
islands could proceed, using battalion 
landing teams of this reserve regiment and 
the 7th Reconnaissance Troop. 32 Opera- 
tions in the last two phases were not clearly 
defined as to tactics; the exact procedure 
to be used was left until the target was 
reached and a closer survey made. 

Northern Kwajalein Atoll 

The plans drawn up by the 4th Marine 
Division for the capture of Roi-Namur 
and the adjacent islands in the northern 
half of Kwajalein Atoll were similar in 
most respects to those of the 7th Division. 
The only important difference in the land- 
ing plan stemmed from the choice of 
beaches. Whereas the 7th Division pro- 
posed to land on a narrow front on the 
west end of Kwajalein Island and fight its 
way up the long axis of the island, the 4th 
Marine Division was able to undertake a 
more orthodox amphibious maneuver and 
land two regiments abreast on a broad 
front on th e lagoon shore of Roi-Namur. 
{Map 10) | 

Roi Island measures 1,250 yards north 
and south by 1 ,200 yards east and west. At 
the time of the landing it was almost en- 
tirely cleared and was the site of the largest 
enemy airfield in Kwajalein Atoll. The 
field had three runways and was shaped in 
the form of a figure 4. It also had four 
turning circles, two service aprons, two 
hangars, numerous service buildings, a 

32 7th Inf Div Flintlock Rpt, Vol. II, FO 1, 6 
Jan 44, p. 2, and FO 2, 6 Jan 44, pp. 2, 3. 



TACTICAL PLANNING FOR THE MARSHALLS 



181 




MAP 10 



control tower, and some thirty revetments. 
The dispersal area covered practically the 
whole island. Namur Island, located 500 
yards southeast of Roi, is connected with 
the latter by a sand beach on the lagoon 
(southern) side and a causeway between 
the islands halfway between the lagoon 
and ocean beaches. The island measures 
approximately 900 yards east- west and 800 
yards north-south. Unlike Roi, it was 
heavily wooded at the time of the landings, 
in spite of the fact that it contained a large 
number of buildings. 

The beaches along the seaward side of 
Roi and Namur, as elsewhere in the atoll, 
are approached over a reef from 1 25 to 400 
yards wide that falls away sharply to sea- 
ward and has a ragged outer edge. This 



reef, plus the fact that surf on Roi-Namur's 
ocean coast was extremely heavy, made 
landings from that side unfeasible. The 
only possible location for a landing, there- 
fore, was from the lagoon where the reef 
fell gradually and was under water at high 
tide, and where there was no considerable 
surf. 33 

The 4th Marine Division's plan of at- 
tack closely paralleled that of the 7th In- 
fantry Division in the south. On D Day, 
while the Southern Attack Force would be 
busy with the capture of islands adjacent 
to Kwajalein, the 25th Marine Regimen- 
tal Combat Team, commanded by Brig. 
Gen. James L. Underhill, USMC, would 

33 4th Marine Div Opn Plan 3-43 (Revised), App 
2 to Annex Fox, 30 Dec 43. 



182 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



capture five islets near Roi-Namur. Two 
of these guarded passes into the lagoon. 
The most important of the northern chan- 
nels was Ivan Pass guarded by Ivan 
(Mellu) Island, about five miles to the west 
of the main base at Roi. A nearer pass was 
also guarded by Ivan as well as Jacob 
(Ennuebing) Island, from which it took its 
name. Just to the southeast of Namur lay 
five other islets, three of them large enough 
to be usable, the other two being simply 
reef outcroppings. The three larger were 
named Abraham (Ennugarret), Albert 
(Ennumennet) and Allen (Ennubirr). 
These three, as well as Ivan and Jacob, 
were thought to be suitable for the em- 
placement of artillery. 34 

On D Day, General Underbill's landing 
group was to seize Jacob and Ivan Islands 
and establish thereon the 3d and 4th Bat- 
talions of the 14th Marine Regiment (Ar- 
tillery). Thereupon, the group was to move 
to Albert and Allen Islands where the 
other two battalions of the Marine artillery 
regiment were to be emplaced. The occu- 
pation of these islands, none of which was 
expected to be heavily defended, was to 
be completed before darkness on D Day. 

On the next day the main landings were 
to take place on Roi and Namur. The 23d 
Regimental Combat Team was ordered to 
land two regiments abreast on Red 
Beaches 2 and 3 on the lagoon shore of 
Roi. The 24th Regimental Combat Team 
was to conduct simultaneous landings on 
Green Beaches 1 and 2 on the lagoon shore 
of Namur. The third and final phase of the 
operation would include capture of the re- 
maining islands in northern Kwajalein 
and would be conducted on order depend- 
ing upon the speed with which the main 
objectives were attained. 



These landings would of course follow 
the same intense aerial, naval, and artil- 
lery preparatory fire outlined for southern 
Kwajalein. The assault troops would all be 
boated in amphibian tractors, which 
would be preceded by a wave of LCI gun- 
boats and a wave of armored LVT's. The 
LCI(G)'s were instructed to proceed to 
within 1,000 yards of the beach, fire their 
rockets, and continue to support the land- 
ing of troops by gunfire. The armored 
amphibians were to pass through the 
LCI(G)'s and open fire with their 37-mm. 
guns and machine guns. Finally, the am- 
phibian tractors mounting the infantry 
were to follow the armored amphibians 
and pass through them if the latter had to 
be stopped short of the beaches. Tanks, 
boated in LCM's, would follow the first 
waves of troops. 35 

Coincident with the seizure of Kwaja- 
lein, the separate task group (Task Group 
51.2) under Admiral Hill was to invade 
Majuro Atoll. This force was made up 
principally of the 2d Battalion, 106th In- 
fantry, from the 27th Infantry Division, 
and the V Amphibious Corps Reconnais- 
sance Company. Majuro was thought to 
be lightly defended, perhaps not at all. For 
this reason, plans for the occupation of the 
atoll were dependent upon the results of a 
preliminary reconnaissance to be carried 
out by the reconnaissance company on D 
Day after its seizure of Calalin Island, 
which guarded the principal entrance pass 
into the lagoon. 36 



34 4th Marine Div Final Rpt on Flintlock Opn, 
17 Mar 44, Incl C. 

35 4th Marine Div Opn Plan 3-43 (Revised), 31 
Dec 43, pp. 1-2; Ibid., Annex M. 

36 TG 51.2 Action Rpt Majuro Atoll, Marshall 
Islands, 15 Feb 44, p. 4. 



CHAPTER XII 



Training, Logistics, and 
Preliminary Operations 



Training the Army Ground Troops 

Of the troops who were to make the in- 
vasion of Kwajalein Atoll, only the 17th 
and 32d Regimental Combat Teams of the 
7th Infantry Division had seen previous 
combat. The two Army regiments had 
conducted successful amphibious landings 
on Attu and captured it in May 1943. 1 
The 184th Infantry had made an unop- 
posed landing at Kiska. Neither the 106th 
Regimental Combat Team of the 27th In- 
fantry Division, nor the 4th Marine Divi- 
sion, nor the 22d Marines, an independent 
Marine regiment, had engaged in any pre- 
vious operations. Even those units that had 
been in combat were now faced with en- 
tirely new problems. The two combat 
teams of the 7th Division that had landed 
on Attu had fought under conditions very 
different from those to be found on a coral 
atoll. Each unit therefore underwent a 
period of intensive training with emphasis 
on the amphibious techniques that would 
be used at Kwajalein Island and Roi- 
Namur. 

Initial training of the 7th Division for 
the Marshalls operation fell under the 
control of General Richardson's head- 
quarters (USAFICPA). The entire divi- 
sion spent a week at a jungle training cen- 
ter on Oahu, where it was put through 



battle-conditioning courses and received 
instruction in jungle fighting, jungle living, 
booby traps and demolitions, sniping and 
infiltration, and defense against various 
types of tactics that might be employed 
against it in the forthcoming campaign. 
Each company conducted exercises in the 
attack of fortified positions involving the 
use of chemical mortars, flame throwers, 
grenades, engineer-infantry teams, tanks, 
and machine guns and rifles. 2 

One of the chief tactical defects that had 
been revealed in the ground fighting at 
Makin and Tarawa was the poor commu- 
nications and co-ordination between tanks 
and infantry. Steps were taken before the 
invasion of the Marshalls to rectify this 
deficiency. On 5 November the 767th 
Tank Battalion was attached to the 7th 
Infantry Division and, as soon as reports 
began to flow in from the Gilberts, tank 
and infantry officers worked in close con- 
junction to prevent repetition of errors 
committed in that operation. To improve 
co-ordination, tank companies and pla- 
toons, as nearly as possible, were trained 
with the infantry battalion with which 



1 Edmund G. Love, The Hourglass: A History of the 
7th Infantry Division in World War II (Washington: In- 
fantry Journal Press, 1950), Part II. 

2 USAFICPA Participation Rpt Kwajalein and 
Eniwetok, p. 33. 



184 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



they were to work. Frequent conferences 
were held and a standard tank-infantry 
doctrine was worked out. It was agreed 
that tanks should precede infantry in the 
assault against organized positions, but not 
beyond the range of infantry covering fire. 
Tanks were not to be used to eliminate 
sniper fire, but should be employed against 
automatic weapons holding up the infan- 
try line. Tanks should be used as forward 
scouts whenever the infantry was advanc- 
ing into enemy country via a road. The 
tank commander was always to be subor- 
dinate to the infantry commander. 3 

The difficulty of maintaining communi- 
cations between infantry front-line com- 
panies and the supporting tanks, especially 
when under machine gun and rifle fire, 
had been made too painfully evident in 
the Gilberts. As a solution a phone was 
devised that could be used from the out- 
side of the tank. The phone was located in 
a metal box attached to the rear of each 
tank. On the outside of the phone box was 
placed a switch that operated a light on 
the inside of the tank. An infantryman 
wanting to communicate with his sup- 
porting tank had merely to flick the switch 
to stop the tank, remove the phone, and 
then talk to the tank commander inside. 4 

In addition to its responsibility for 
ground combat training, General Rich- 
ardson's headquarters also supervised the 
preliminary amphibious training of the 
7th Division and its attached units. Bat- 
talion landing teams were rotated through 
a three-day period of advanced training 
with floating equipment. Each team prac- 
ticed embarkation, debarkation, and the 
formation of boat waves. Following this 
came battalion landing exercises, ending 
in a tactical firing exercise ashore. One 
combat company from each battalion and 
the 7th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop 



were given intensive training in rubber 
boats. 5 

Special schools were set up on Oahu at 
Waianae and Makua to train 7th Division 
troops to handle amphibian tractors and 
amphibian trucks. 6 These schools were 
conducted under the direct supervision of 
the 7th Division Ordnance Company. The 
trainees for the DUKW's came from the 
infantry regiment service companies and 
the field artillery battalions. Those for 
the LVT's were taken from the infantry 
regiment antitank companies. 7 

One of the most pressing problems fac- 
ing the 7th Division after its arrival in the 
Hawaiian Islands was the procurement 
and training of shore party personnel. 
General Corlett had requested of General 
Richardson's headquarters that his divi- 
sion be assigned three extra engineer bat- 
talions in addition to the organic combat 
engineer battalion. These were to be em- 
ployed exclusively for shore party work. 
General Richardson was unable to meet 
the request and informed the 7th Division 
commander that he would have to draw 
his shore parties from garrison troops as- 
signed to the occupation of Kwajalein 
after the assault phase was completed, that 
is the 3d and 4th Army Defense Battal- 
ions. Consequently, seven engineer com- 
panies and two infantry companies of the 
garrison force were used as a nucleus for 

3 767th Tank Battalion Report of Tank Operation 
Flintlock, 28 Feb 44 (hereafter cited as 767th Tk Bn 
Flintlock Rpt), pp. 2-3; S. L. A. Marshall, Notes 
on Kwajalein Opn, MS, 3 vols, OCMH (hereafter 
cited as Marshall, Kwajalein Notes), Vol. Ill, pp. 
64-65. 

4 767th Tk Bn Flintlock Rpt, p. 35. 

5 USAFICPA Participation Rpt Kwajalein and 
Eniwetok, pp. 33-34; 7th Inf Div Participation Rpt 
Flintlock, p. 2. 

6 On the tactical employment of the DUKW, see 
below, pp. 17-18. 

7 7th Inf Div Flintlock Rpt, Vol. VII, G-4 Rpt, 
Annex E, Ordnance Rpt, p. 3. 



TRAINING, LOGISTICS, AND PRELIMINARY OPERATIONS 



185 



the shore parties assigned to the nine bat- 
talion landing teams of the division. There 
was not enough heavy equipment for both 
the shore party operation and the garrison 
resident engineer work so it was decided to 
use the same equipment for both tasks. 
Each shore party received five bulldozer 
crawler tractors of various sizes, one 20- 
ton 20-foot boom crane, one five-kilowatt 
floodlight system, one sled-mounted four- 
ton power winch, nine 2V2-ton trucks, 200 
feet of steel roller conveyor, 1,000 feet of 
beach mat, and a five-horn portable loud- 
speaker system. 

After being issued this equipment each 
shore party received its training along with 
the battalion landing team to which it was 
to be attached. To indoctrinate the shore 
party personnel with the idea that they 
"were as important members of the fighting 
troops as any other component" of the 
battalion, the shore parties were desig- 
nated "beach combat teams." Training 
included "dry boat" exercises in which 
beaching conditions were simulated and 
"wet boat" exercises in which each battal- 
ion and its shore party made actual land- 
ings in the beaches at Waianae Amphib- 
ious Training Center on Oahu. 8 

The amphibious training centers at 
Waianae and Waimanalo were also used 
to train joint assault signal company 
( JASCO) personnel in the special signal 
and communications problems involved in 
joint operations. The 75th JASCO, as- 
signed to the 7th Division, totaled 592 
officers and men, drawn both from the 
Army and the Navy. Elements of a similar 
organization, the 295th JASCO, were as- 
signed to the 106th Regimental Combat 
Team of the 27th Division. Included in this 
signal company were three shore fire con- 
trol teams and three beach and shore 
party teams. Operating with the 295th 



JASCO were four air liaison teams. 9 

On 11 December, after the completion 
of its preliminary training, the 7th Divi- 
sion and its attached units were turned 
over to General Holland Smith's V Am- 
phibious Corps for operational control 
and advanced amphibious training. Ship- 
board exercises were conducted for the 
184th Regimental Combat Team, which 
had had the least amphibious experience 
of the three regiments of the division. 
Then, just before sailing, final rehearsals 
were held at Maui and Kahoolawe, 
Hawaii. On the former island actual land- 
ings were made, although naval gunfire 
was only simulated. The next day, naval 
ships fired live ammunition against the 
beaches of uninhabitated Kahoolawe. 
This completed the training for the am- 
phibious units scheduled for the landings 
on the southern half of Kwajalein Atoll. 10 
Meanwhile, the 106th Regimental 
Combat Team had been undergoing a 
similar training program. By 3 October, 
when it was alerted for the Marshalls op- 
eration, it had already completed approxi- 
mately eight weeks of intensive training 
as part of the 27th Division's Nauru task 
force. Thereafter, until it was turned over 
to V Amphibious Corps on 1 1 December, 
the regiment continued to be trained 
under the supervision of 27th Division 
headquarters. All officers and noncommis- 
sioned officers were thoroughly briefed 
upon the division's experiences at Makin 
during the week after the return of the 
Makin force to Oahu. Attempts were 
made to correct many of the deficiencies 
that had been found in the Makin plan. 

8 7th Inf Div Flintlock Rpt, Vol. VII, G-4 Rpt, 
Annex D, Engineer Rpt, pp. 2-3. 

9 USAFICPA Participation Rpt Kwajalein and 
Eniwetok, pp. 143-44; see above, pp. 178-79. 

10 USAFICPA Participation Rpt Kwajalein and 
Eniwetok, p. 34; V Phib Corps Flintlock Rpt, p. 5. 



186 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



Particular attention was given, as it had 
Ijeen in the 7th Division, to the problem of 
tank-infantry co-operation. The 106th In- 
fantry was also trained in co-ordination 
with the 295th JASCO. Upon being as- 
signed to V Amphibious Corps, it reviewed 
all amphibious training, and on 21 De- 
cember the regiment embarked on a nine- 
day practice cruise and rehearsal off 
Maui. 11 

Training the 4th Marine Division 

The 4th Marine Division was activated 
on 15 August 1943 at Camp Pendleton, 
California, General Schmidt command- 
ing. On 20 September it was assigned to 
the V Amphibious Corps with the under- 
standing that it would participate in some 
undesignated Central Pacific landing and 
that it must be fully trained and equipped 
by 1 December. The division held frequent 
boat exercises throughout September and 
October, using boats furnished by the 
Amphibious Training Command. 12 

Late in October, Group Three of the V 
Amphibious Force was organized under 
command of Admiral Conolly. Conolly's 
task force (later designated Task Force 53) 
was assigned the duty of carrying and sup- 
porting the 4th Marine Division in the in- 
vasion of Kwajalein Atoll. Admiral Con- 
olly established his headquarters at Camp 
Pendleton and worked in close conjunc- 
tion with division headquarters in prepar- 
ing a training schedule. The proximity of 
the two headquarters made for excellent 
co-ordination of their activities. Each regi- 
mental combat team of the Marine divi- 
sion was given a two-week period of actual 
ship-to-shore training from transports. 
One division rehearsal landing was con- 
ducted on the Aliso Canyon beaches of 
Camp Pendleton during December. After 



word arrived late in that month that the 
target would be the northern part of 
Kwajalein Atoll, plans for a final rehearsal 
were drawn up to simulate as far as pos- 
sible the actual conditions that could be 
expected in the Marshalls. 13 

The 1st Joint Assault Signal Company, 
with functions similar to the Army 
JASCO's, was attached on 2 December 
and commenced training with its assigned 
infantry and naval units. On 20 Novem- 
ber the 1st Armored Amphibian Battalion 
was attached. As soon as the reports of the 
2d Marine Division's experiences at Tara- 
wa were received by 4th Marine Division 
headquarters, training in the employment 
of amphibian tractors was stepped up. 
Early in December a new amphibian trac- 
tor battalion — in addition to the one 
already organic to the division — was or- 
ganized. Later still, an amphibian tractor 
company was added. This led to an unde- 
sirable dilution of trained personnel. Also, 
the fact that the tractors had to be 
equipped with additional armor kept 
many of them out of operation at the time 
when intensive training of tractor crews 
was most necessary. The result was that 
the marines assigned to man the amphib- 
ian tractors were inadequately trained, a 
defect that was to have serious effects on 
the ship-to-shore movement at Roi- 
Namur. 14 It was the opinion of General 
Schmidt that "the greatest deficiency in 
amphibious training [in the 4th Marine 
Division] appeared to be in methods of 
boat control, especially during the critical 
stage of forming boat waves and groups for 
the assault." He also noted that his LVT 

11 USAFICPA Participation Rpt Kwajalein and 
Eniwetok, pp. 197-99. 

12 4th Marine Div Final Rpt Flintlock, p. 2. 

13 TF 53 Rpt of Amph Opns for the capture of 
Roi and Namur Islands, 23 Feb 44, pp. 1-2. 

14 4th Marine Div Final Rpt Flintlock, p. 2. 



TRAINING, LOGISTICS, AND PRELIMINARY OPERATIONS 



187 



crews lacked adequate training in troop- 
carrying operations, elementary seaman- 
ship, and in the use of the compass. 15 

Logistics 

Supplying and Loading Army 
Ground Troops 

The burden of initial supply support for 
the 7th Infantry Division and the 106th 
Regimental Combat Team fell jointly on 
Headquarters, United States Army Forces, 
Central Pacific Area; the V Amphibious 
Corps; and Commander, Service Force, 
Pacific Fleet — all in Oahu. This division of 
responsibility caused some confusion and 
delay. The main source of difficulty was 
that the place and responsibility of V Am- 
phibious Corps was never clearly defined 
in regard to supply, at least to the satisfac- 
tion of the logistics officers of the 7th Divi- 
sion. 16 General Holland Smith was in tac- 
tical command of the operation and 
General Richardson was charged with 
training and supplying the Army troops 
that would participate. This dichotomy 
tended to handicap the easy flow of sup- 
plies into the hands of the troops. As the 
7th Division's logistics officer, Lt. Col. 
David X. Angluin, reported: "On the one 
hand there was the supply headquarters 
without tactical authority or especial tacti- 
cal consideration [USAFICPA], and on the 
other hand there was the [ultimate] tactical 
headquarters without supply responsibility 
[V Amphibious Corps]. Considerable val- 
uable time was lost in processing requests 
because of the lack of early definition of 
responsibility." 17 Logistical planning on 
the division level was always complicated 
by the necessity for working through sev- 
eral responsible parties instead of one. 
For example, during the four months of 
planning and equipping, Class III supply 
(fuels and lubricants) was passed back and 



forth between Army and Navy authorities 
until finally it was decided that the Navy 
would be responsible for supplying bulk 
fuels and the Army for filling and marking 
five-gallon containers, while certain other 
types of oils and greases would be bought 
on the open market. 18 Luckily, the division 
was allowed ample time to prepare for the 
Marshalls invasions and most of the diffi- 
culties arising from divided responsibility 
were overcome. 

The basic logistics plan was originally 
prescribed by Admiral Nimitz on 1 1 No- 
vember. 19 Only one major change was 
later made; this was in the amount of 
ammunition to be carried by the combat 
troops. The original directive had provided 
that the combat troops embarking on the 
Marshalls expedition would carry five 
units of fire for each weapon except for 
antiaircraft guns, which were allowed 
ten. 20 As a result of the experience in the 

15 Ibid., Annex J, p. 18. 

18 V Phib Corps Flintlock Rpt, Annex F, G-4 
Rpt, p. 2; 7th Inf Div Flintlock Rpt, Vol. VII, G-4 
Rpt, Annex F, QM Rpt, p. 2. 

17 7th Inf Div Flintlock Rpt, Vol. VII, Part III, 
p. 6. 

18 Ibid., Annex F, QM Rpt, p. 2. 

1!l CINCPAC-CINCPOA Opn Plan 16-43, 12 Oct 
43, Annex A, Logistic Plan for Land-Based Forces, 1 1 
Nov 43. 

20 A unit of fire is by definition the number of 
rounds of ammunition that will normally be used by 
one weapon in one day. In the Central Pacific, the 
Army unit of fire for each of the main weapons was 



as follows: 

Weapon Rounds 

.30-caliber carbine Ml 30 

.30-caliber rifle M 1 903 (Springfield) 70 

.30-caliber rifle M 1 (Garand) 70 

.30-caliber automatic rifle M1918A2 (BAR) 750 

.30-caliber machine gun 1,800 

60-mm. mortar 100 

81 -mm. mortar 90 

75-mm. howitzer (field) 300 

75-mm. gun' (field and tank) 300 

90-mm. gun (AA) 1 25 

105-mm, howitzer 200 

155-mm. howitzer 150 



Source: 7th Inf Div Flintlock Rpt, Vol. VII, G-4 Rpt, 
Annex E, Ordnance Rpt, Incl 3. 



188 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



Gilberts, officers of the 7th Division became 
dissatisfied with this allotment, particularly 
the allowance to artillery weapons. Late in 
the preparatory phase, the division initi- 
ated a request for an increase in the total 
number of units of fire to be taken to the 
Marshalls. 21 This was finally approved by 
Admiral Nimitz on 5 January, and the 
total units of fire for 105-mm. howitzers 
were increased from five to ten and for 
other ground weapons from five to eight. 22 

As finally drawn up, the logistics plan 
for the Marshalls operation provided that 
assault forces would carry 30 days of B 
rations, 5 days of C rations, 5 days of K 
rations, 2 days of D rations, and 5 days of 
water in cans. Thirty days of Class II 
(maintenance), Class III (fuels and lubri- 
cants), and Class IV (medical, aviation, 
and construction) supplies were also to be 
carried by the assault troops. The garrison 
forces were supplied with like amounts 
except that the number of units of fire 
provided for them was reduced. 23 

The 7th Division had been the first in 
the Pacific to experiment with pallets, and 
once again, as at Attu, these amphibious 
sleds were used extensively. The division 
engineer was charged with the responsi- 
bility of palletizing supplies and certain 
items of equipment. By the end of the 
preparatory phase a total of 4,174 sled 
loads were palletized. This included 3 days 
of K and C rations, 3 days of Class III sup- 
plies carried in five-gallon cans, 3 units of 
fire for all weapons except the artillery 
howitzers and chemical mortars, 2 units of 
fire for four 105-mm. howitzer battalions, 
8 units of fire for one 155-mm. howitzer 
battalion, 4 units of fire for the 4.2-inch 
chemical mortars, and sundry items of 
engineer, medical, signal, ordnance, and 
hospital equipment. None of the supplies 
carried in LST's or LSD's were pallet- 



loaded since these ships were not consid- 
ered suitable for easy handling of pallets. 24 

No single item of equipment was more 
eagerly sought by planners at all echelons 
than the amphibian tractor, whose utility 
as a carrier of assault troops had been so 
fully demonstrated at Tarawa and Makin. 
Late in November Admiral Nimitz in- 
formed General Richardson that a mini- 
mum of four tractor battalions per division 
was desirable for atoll operations. One of 
these battalions, he added, should consist 
of amphibian tanks — amphibian tractors 
carrying extra armor plate and mounting 
37-mm. guns. Richardson promptly re- 
quested the War Department to make the 
allocation. 25 This could not be honored in 
its entirety, but the newly formed 708th 
Amphibian Tank Battalion, then training 
in California, was dispatched to Oahu. 
Although the personnel of the battalion 
had scarcely become acquainted with their 
vehicles, the unit was attached to the 7th 
Division on 15 December for the Marshalls 
operation. 26 

An antitank company from each of the 
three regiments of the 7th Division was 
converted into an LVT group and added 
to the amphibian tank battalion. When 
finally organized the battalion's total came 
to one company of amphibian tanks of 
seventeen LVT(A)'s and four amphibian 
tractor groups of thirty-four each. Each of 
these groups was then organized into waves 
to carry the assault troops. The first wave 

21 Hist AFMIDPAC, I, 130. 

22 CINCPAC Opn Plan 16-43 (Revised), Annex A, 
Logistic Plan for Land-Based Forces, CINCPAC- 
CINCPOA Secret Serial 000204, 5 Jan 44. This plan 
replaced the original plan of 1 1 November 1943. V 
Phib Corps Adm Order 1-44, 5 Jan 44. 

23 V Phib Corps Adm Order 1-44, 5 Jan 44. 

24 7th Inf Div Flintlock Rpt, Vol. VII, G-4 Rpt, 
Part V, pp. 5-6, and Annex I, pp. 1-2. 

25 Rad, USAFICPA to WD, 28 Nov 43, CPA 7528. 

26 7th Inf Div G-4 Jnl, 15 Dec 44. 



TRAINING, LOGISTICS, AND PRELIMINARY OPERATIONS 



189 



was to consist of eight amphibian tanks, the 
second of six amphibian tanks and two 
amphibian tractors, the third and fourth of 
eight amphibian tractors each. In addition, 
two tractors in each group were designated 
as free vehicles. All were loaded on LST's, 
seventeen vehicles per ship. Finally, 
twenty-one tractors were formed into a 
reserve LVT pool that was to provide im- 
mediate replacements to the combat teams 
when necessary. These spare vehicles were 
loaded on an LSD. In all, a total of 174 
amphibian tanks and tractors was pro- 
vided for the 7th Division's invasion of 
Kwajalein. In order to maintain and re- 
pair them it was necessary to make provi- 
sion for shops to be assigned exclusively to 
this work. Four LST's were designated as 
repair ships and to each were assigned 
mechanics who were specialists in this 
field. 27 

One of the novel features of the Mar- 
shall operation was the tactical employ- 
ment for the first time on any extensive 
scale in the Pacific of a newly developed 
amphibian vehicle, the 2 1 /2-ton amphibian 
truck or DUKW. It was a six-wheeled 
truck with a boat hull, a tunnel propeller, 
and a small rudder, and could carry 
twenty-five troops or 5,000 pounds of 
cargo. 28 Just as the U.S. Navy and Marine 
Corps had been primarily responsible for 
the development of the LVT, so the Army 
can be credited with the pioneer work that 
produced the DUKW. Since 1940 various 
organizations within the Army had been 
experimenting with amphibian trucks of 
the smaller variety, and several models had 
been perfected, chiefly for employment as 
personnel carriers. In April 1942 the War 
Department authorized the Quartermaster 
Corps to develop an amphibian truck 
based on the standard Army 2V2-ton six- 
by-six truck. Research was turned over to 



the National Defense Research Commit- 
tee, which in turn designated the New York 
yacht designing firm of Sparkman and 
Stephens to work out the details. A con- 
tract was signed with General Motors Cor- 
poration, and by June 1942 the first model 
was ready for demonstration. After a series 
of tests conducted under the auspices of 
the Quartermaster Corps and the Trans- 
portation Corps, the original model, with 
modifications, was accepted, and produc- 
tion on a large scale commenced. The 
vehicle was designated "DUKW" accord- 
ing to the code system employed by Gen- 
eral Motors and this was inevitably trans- 
lated into "duck" by the troops in the 
field. 29 

The 7th Division was allowed a total of 
a hundred DUKW's for the invasion of 
southern Kwajalein. Forty DUKW's were 
organized into two groups of twenty each 
and assigned to the infantry, chiefly for 
logistical purposes. Sixty were allocated to 
division artillery. 

The DUKW's for the artillery were di- 
vided into four groups of fifteen vehicles, 
each group serving one firing battalion, 
five DUKW's to each 105-mm. howitzer 
battery. They were to be carried aboard 
LST's, one ship being assigned to each 
105-mm. howitzer battalion. Certain 
changes had to be made before the DUKW 
could be used to carry artillery pieces. 



27 7th Inf Div Flintlock Rpt, Vol. VII, G-4 Rpt, 
Annex E, Ordnance Rpt, pp. 5-6; 708th Amph Tk 
Bn Special Action Rpt, Kwajalein Opn, 12 Mar 44, 
pp. 1-2. 

28 Office of Naval Intelligence, Confidential Pub- 
lication 226 (Washington, 1944). Two DUKW's had 
been used at Makin with altogether favorable re- 
sults, but the number was insufficient to demonstrate 
conclusively how efficiently these vehicles could be 
used in amphibious operations. 

29 Col. Edwin S. Van Deusen, "Trucks That Go 
Down to the Sea," Army Ordnance, XXV (1943), 555- 
58. 



190 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



First, the center of gravity had to be low- 
ered so that the truck would not capsize in 
rough water with a top-heavy load. This 
was accomplished by lowering the floor 
boards in the cargo box. The second 
change would have involved widening the 
cargo space by from six to eight inches but 
no way was found to do this. It was discov- 
ered, however, that the oversize combat 
wheels on the pieces could easily be re- 
placed by ordinary truck-type wheels and 
tires, allowing the howitzers to fit perfectly 
into the DUKW's. In addition, out of each 
group of fifteen artillery DUKW's, three 
were fitted with A-frames by which the 
pieces could be easily lifted from the cargo 
box into position. 

As in the case of the LVT's it was real- 
ized that floating shops for repair of 
DUKW's would be needed. Certain LST's 
were assigned this duty and were issued 
special parts and a sizable stock of patching 
and welding material for the purpose. 30 
The precaution was to prove its worth in 
the fighting to come. 

One final logistical lesson that had 
emerged from the Tarawa operation was 
that pointing to the necessity for establish- 
ing some system of floating supply until 
the beachhead had been expanded suffi- 
ciently to permit the uninterrupted opera- 
tion of inland supply dumps. Shortly after 
the termination of the Tarawa fight, logis- 
tics officers of the 7th Division held a series 
of conversations with Captain Knowles, 
naval transport group commander, and Lt. 
Col. Jesse S. Cook, USMC, the D-4 officer 
of the 2d Marine Division. On the basis of 
the information gained from these inter- 
views it was decided that at Kwajalein a 
better system of combat supply would have 
to be set up. It was essential that plans be 
made for the immediate delivery of prior- 
ity supplies to the fighting troops ashore 



before the shore parties were organized. 
On the suggestion of Warrant Officer (j.g.) 
John T. Dalton, it was finally decided to 
stow initial combat supplies on LST's and 
use DUKW's to carry them to the shore as 
needed. Thus the LST's would act as float- 
ing supply dumps until such time as it was 
possible to set up inland dumps. 

A plan of supply was compiled that re- 
quired stowage space aboard seven LST's 
for two units of fire for all weapons except 
artillery, four days' emergency rations, one 
and a half days of water, two days of Class 
III supplies, quartermaster and ordnance 
cleaning and preserving kits, and approxi- 
mately fifty-five tons of explosives. A por- 
tion of these supplies was "preloaded" in 
the forty infantry DUKW's that were em- 
barked in two of the seven LST's. The re- 
maining five LST's embarked seventeen 
amphibian tractors each in addition to the 
priority supplies. 

This proposal was presented to Captain 
Knowles for recommendations and com- 
ments. He approved the solution as pre- 
sented. It was then presented to Admiral 
Turner, who gave his approval and made 
the necessary arrangements for the ship- 
ping required to carry out the plan. 31 

In addition to the 7th Division, other 
Army units scheduled for the Marshalls 
had to be supplied in the Hawaiian area. 
These were the 106th Infantry Regiment 
of the 27th Division and the 3d and 4th 
Army Defense Battalions, the latter two 
being designated as the chief components 
of the garrison force for the Marshalls. 

The 106th Infantry Regiment, as a re- 
serve, expected to land, if at all, over 

!l) 7th Inf Div Flintlock Rpt, Vol. VII, G-4 Rpt, 
Annex E, Ordnance Rpt, p. 10; 7th Inf Div Rpt, 
Use of DUKW's by the Artillery of the 7th Infantry 
Division in the Flintlock Operation, 4 Apr 44. 

31 7th Inf Div Flintlock Rpt, Vol. VII, G-4 Rpt, 
Annex A, Initial Combat Supply, p. 1. 



TRAINING, LOGISTICS, AND PRELIMINARY OPERATIONS 



191 



beaches already secured and was therefore 
equipped to operate as a combat team only 
in land operations. The regiment had orig- 
inally begun training with the 27th Divi- 
sion for operations against Nauru. When 
that target was dropped in favor of Makin, 
the Gilberts force was reduced to a single 
regimental combat team, the 165th. Only 
a five-day interval elapsed, however, be- 
fore Admiral Nimitz included the 106th in 
his plans for the Marshalls invasion. Al- 
though under the operational control of the 
V Amphibious Corps, the regiment re- 
mained attached to the 27th Division until 
1 1 December and during this period was 
brought up to strength and fully equipped 
by the 27th Division and General Richard- 
son's headquarters. 

The 106th Infantry was reinforced dur- 
ing this period by the addition of one pro- 
visional clearing company, a provisional 
hospital, a tank maintenance ordnance 
detachment, and a bomb disposal squad. 
Two tank companies were also added. 
Company B of the 102d Engineer Battal- 
ion and elements of that battalion's head- 
quarters were attached to the 27th Divi- 
sion, and from it to the 106th Infantry, as 
were various special troop detachments 
from the division's headquarters. When 
the 295th JASCO was attached to the divi- 
sion after Makin, detachments were in 
turn assigned to the 106th Infantry. 32 

The 106th was to carry a thirty-day level 
of supplies with it to Kwajalein in all 
classes except ammunition. Five units of 
fire of all types were allotted. As a result of 
the Makin experience, 27th Division sup- 
ply officers sought and received approval 
of a modification in the USAFICPA unit 
of fire tables to provide increased supplies 
of 60-mm. illuminating shells and 37-mm. 
canister as well as more 81 -mm. heavy 
mortar shells for use against concrete em- 



placements. In contrast to the regiments of 
the 7th Division, which altogether used 
only 4, 174 pallets, the 106th Infantry alone 
used 3,000 for the Kwajalein reserve 
mission. 33 

Soon after the regiment's formal attach- 
ment to the Marshalls force, further 
changes in the supply plan had to be made. 
Late in December the 2d Battalion was 
assigned to the Majuro mission and all 
logistic and loading plans had to be revised. 
Enough supplies were turned over to the 
Majuro battalion to make it self-sufficient. 
The regiment's shipping, which was re- 
duced by two vessels after the subtraction 
of those assigned to the 2d Battalion, 
proved insufficient, thereby causing shifts 
on loading plans. 34 

The plans for loading the various ships 
that would carry the assault troops and 
their supplies and equipment were worked 
out by consultation between representa- 
tives of the staffs of Admiral Turner, Gen- 
eral Holland Smith, and the 7th Infantry 
Division. Since it was decided to increase 
the number of units of fire to be carried by 
the 7th Division, it was impossible to 
combat-load all the ships assigned to carry 
the troops. Accordingly, the attack trans- 
ports and their accompanying attack cargo 
ships were loaded between decks with ini- 
tial combat equipment and supplies; the 
bulk of the remaining supplies was stowed 
in the holds of the cargo ships without any 
attempt at genuine combat loading. Loose 
emergency supplies of all classes were car- 
ried aboard the LST's. This resulted in a 
combat load of about 600 short tons in 
each APA and AKA, with an additional 
1,000 tons of maintenance supplies in each 

32 USAFICPA Participation Rpt Kwajalein and 
Eniwetok, pp. 197-99. 

33 Ibid., p. 199. 

34 Ibid., p. 201. 



192 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



AKA and emergency supplies on the 
LST's. The LST's that carried the am- 
phibian tractors also were stowed with an 
average load of 350 tons of miscellaneous 
supplies. 35 

The procedure established for working 
out the details of loading was as follows: 
each regimental commander upon receiv- 
ing approval of his equipment list con- 
ferred with the naval transport division 
commander to which his regiment was as- 
signed. Together they allocated personnel 
and cargo to ships in such manner as to 
support the tactical plans of the ground 
troops and provide for a balanced unload- 
ing of the ships. The next step was for the 
battalion landing team commander or the 
senior troop officer embarking on each 
ship to confer with the ship's commanding 
officer, who was responsible for proper 
loading plans for his ship. Actual loading 
was performed by troop working details 
with ships' crews manning the winches and 
supervising the stowing of cargo in the 
holds. The port authorities at Honolulu 
and Pearl Harbor furnished the necessary 
dock equipment and the personnel to man 
it. Each troop unit had a transport quarter- 
master who dealt with the ships' transport 
quartermaster in supervising the actual 
details of loading. 36 

When the loading was finally com- 
pleted, the 21,768 officers and men of the 
7th Infantry Division, reinforced, with all 
their initial supplies and equipment were 
embarked aboard one headquarters ship, 
eleven attack transports, three attack cargo 
ships, nineteen LST's, three LSD's, and 
two high-speed transports. The corps re- 
serve, consisting of the 22d Marine Regi- 
mental Combat Team and the 106th In- 
fantry (totaling 9,325 officers and men), 
was carried aboard six attack transports, 
one troop transport, one attack cargo ship 



and one cargo ship (AK). The 2d Battal- 
ion Landing Team of the 106th Infantry 
Regiment, scheduled to land on Majuro, 
was for the most part embarked on an 
attack transport, USS Cambria, which was 
also Admiral Hill's flagship. Two accom- 
panying LST's carried the remainder of 
the troops. The V Amphibious Corps Re- 
connaissance Company, also assigned to 
this mission, was aboard a high-speed 
transport. 37 

4th Marine Division Logistics 

Navy and Marine Corps authorities in 
the San Diego area assumed responsibility 
for supplying and loading the 4th Marine 
Division. In the matter of special amphibi- 
ous equipment the Marine division was 
both more and less fortunate than the 7th 
Division. Altogether the Marines took with 
them to Roi-Namur 280 amphibian trac- 
tors and 75 armored amphibians, a far 
larger number than was allowed to the 7th 
Division. These were organized into the 
4th Amphibian Tractor Battalion, the 10th 
Amphibian Tractor Battalion with Com- 
pany A of the 11th Amphibian Tractor 
Battalion attached, and the 1st Armored 
Amphibian Battalion. 38 On the other hand 
no DUKW's were made available to the 
Marine division and it had to rely exclu- 
sively on landing craft and amphibian 



35 Commander in Chief U.S. Fleet, Publication P- 
002, Amphibious Operations in the Marshall Islands 
January-Februarv 1944, 20 May 44 (hereafter cited 
as COMINCH P-002), Ch. V, p. 1. 

36 Ibid., Ch. V, pp. 4-5. 

37 7th Inf Div Flintlock Rpt, Vol. VII, G-4 Rpt, 
Annex H. Transport QM Rpt, p. 2; V Phib Corps, 
Summary of Units and Ships Upon Which Embarked, 
Flintlock: TF 51 Rpt Flintlock, p. 3. 

38 TF 51 Rpt Flintlock, Annex J to Incl J; V Phib 
Corps, Summary of Units and Ships Upon Which 
Embarked, Flintlock. 



TRAINING, LOGISTICS, AND PRELIMINARY OPERATIONS 



193 



tractors to carry its artillery and supplies 
ashore. 39 

The division was also handicapped by 
the fact that shipping was available for 
only 30 percent of its transportation. Only 
eight one-ton cargo trucks and twenty-five 
2!/2-ton dump trucks could be taken along 
and all the 2V2-ton cargo trucks had to be 
left behind. According to the division com- 
mander, at least twice the amount of trans- 
portation taken should have accompanied 
his troops on the invasion. 40 

To carry the marines to their destination 
Admiral Conolly's Task Force 53 included 
one headquarters ship, eleven attack trans- 
ports, one troop transport, three attack 
cargo ships, one high-speed transport, 
fifteen LST's, and two LSD's. Four attack 
transports and one attack cargo ship con- 
stituted a transport division, lifting the 
personnel, equipment, and supplies of a 
regimental combat team. Each battalion 
landing team embarked in one attack 
transport, and the fourth attack transport 
of each transport division carried the regi- 
mental support group and headquarters. 
The attack cargo ship of each transport 
division lifted a few personnel and a great 
part of the regimental supplies. 41 

The division headquarters was em- 
barked aboard the AGC USS Appalachian, 
which was Admiral Conolly's flagship. All 
the 105-mm. artillery was embarked in 
one LSD (Epping Forest), each weapon 
with its supply of ammunition preloaded 
on an LCM. All the Marine 75-mm. pack 
howitzers were preloaded in LVT's, which 
were carried aboard three LST's. Medium 
tanks were preloaded in LCM's and em- 
barked in the other LSD ( Gunston Hall), 
light tanks in the attack transports, amph- 
tracks and armored amphibians in LST's 
and LSD's. 42 

The only serious problem to arise while 



these vessels were being loaded came about 
as a result of Admiral Nimitz' order to in- 
crease the number of units of fire from five 
to ten for 105-mm. howitzers and from five 
to eight for all other weapons. This had 
been done in the instance of the 7th Divi- 
sion, but the staff of the 4th Marine Divi- 
sion was opposed to it. Five units, said 
General Schmidt, would have been suffi- 
cient. 43 Certainly this midstream change 
in the amount of required ammunition 
complicated the division's loading in San 
Diego. Prepared loading plans had to be 
scrapped and various desired items of sup- 
ply and equipment left ashore to make 
room for ammunition. "Of utmost im- 
portance," complained the division com- 
mander, "is the cessation of logistical plan- 
ning once the loading has begun." 44 

Preliminary Army Air Operations 

The first strikes against the Marshalls 
by land-based aircraft took place as part 
of the plan to neutralize them in prepara- 
tion for the landings in the Gilberts on 20 
November. Following the seizure of Makin 
and Tarawa, operations against the various 
important Marshalls atolls continued 
without interruption. The previous mis- 
sion of temporary neutralization now gave 
way to one of permanent neutralization or 
destruction of defenses. Until the middle 
of December all operations were con- 
ducted by B-24's based south and east of 
the Gilberts and were restricted by the dis- 



39 4th Marine Div Final Rpt Flintlock., Incl J, p. 
27. 

40 Ibid., p. 29. 

41 TF 53 Rpt Flintlock, Incl H, p. 1. 

42 Ibid., p. 2; V Phib Corps, Summary of Units and 
Ships Upon Which Embarked, Flintlock. 

43 4th Marine Div Final Rpt Flintlock, Incl J, p. 
28. 

44 Ibid., p. 46. 



194 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



tances that had to be flown; after 23 De- 
cember flights could be made by planes 
based in the Gilberts, and in January the 
B-24's began operating from the Gilberts 
to strike more deeply and more powerfully 
into the Marshalls. 

During November and December two 
atolls received more attacks than the 
others. Mille, nearest to the Gilberts and 
therefore more easily reached and imme- 
diately dangerous, was the center of atten- 
tion, but Maloelap with its large air facil- 
ities had to be kept under constant 
surveillance and attack. Jaluit was a less 
important target. Kwajalein and Wotje 
received most attention during January as 
the softening-up before the invasion went 
into high gear. 

Mille 

Mille Atoll was subjected to a carrier 
strike on 18-19 November, by which time 
most of its air facilities had been damaged 
extensively. Because it was their only base 
within fighter range of the Gilberts, the 
Japanese concentrated every effort to get 
the runways back into condition at the 
earliest possible moment and to keep the 
base well reinforced with planes. Their 
success was attested to by the appearance 
of several Japanese fighters west of Makin 
as early as 20 November. 45 That same 
night enemy bombers were over Tarawa. 

On 24 November eleven B-24's staged 
through Baker Island for a raid on Mille 
Atoll. At the target they were intercepted 
by approximately eight fighters that 
caused minor damage to the bombers but 
did not prevent the dropping of bombs on 
Mili, the main island of the atoll. Between 
that date and 19 December 106 heavy 
bombers dropped a total of 122 tons of 
bombs on the runways and installations. 



All of these missions were flown from Can- 
ton, staging through Baker, or from Nano- 
mea, Nukufetau, or Funafuti. The largest 
single mission was flown on 4 December 
when thirty-four B-24's bombed Mili 
Island. Throughout the period Japanese 
fighters operated from the Mille base and 
rose to intercept the American formations. 

Beginning on 18 December the pattern 
of attacks against Mille changed. That 
day saw the first strike by American attack 
bombers and land-based fighters. Twelve 
A-24's, escorted by thirteen P-39's, ap- 
peared over the atoll and damaged three 
enemy fighters on the ground. On the 
same day six more P-39's destroyed six out 
of eight interceptors in the air and four 
more planes on the ground. The following 
day, the 19th, the last B-24 strike on Mille 
was executed. Approximately twenty-five 
interceptors arose to meet the flight of 
nineteen B-24's, and seven of the Japanese 
planes were shot down. From then until 
25 December, fighters and attack bombers 
kept up daily attacks on Mille. Confirmed 
damage to the enemy during the period 18 
through 25 December included virtually 
all the fuel dumps on the atoll bombed 
and most of the buildings leveled. A total 
of eleven enemy planes were destroyed on 
the ground. There was no further Japanese 
interception from Mille after 25 Decem- 
ber. On only two occasions after that date 
were enemy aircraft found on this eastern 
atoll. Three planes were observed on the 
ground on 3 January and destroyed. Five 
days later a routine reconnaissance flight 
discovered approximately four more 
parked along the runways. By the time an 
attack group hit the island on 10 January, 
even these few planes had disappeared. 



45 CINCPAC-CINCPOA Opns in POA, Nov 43, 
Annex E, p. 21. 



TRAINING, LOGISTICS, AND PRELIMINARY OPERATIONS 



195 




MILLE UNDER AIR ATTACK 



After 25 December, with both attack 
bombers and fighters regularly available 
from the new bases at Makin, Tarawa, and 
Apamama, the neutralization of Mille en- 
tered its final phase. Fighters conducted 
daily reconnaissance over the atoll. Their 
findings were usually transmitted to their 
home bases, and a task group of either 
fighters or attack bombers made a flight 
on the same day to knock out whatever 
had been uncovered by the reconnaissance 
flight. On four occasions between 1 Jan- 
uary and 31 January American planes 
were on station over Mille for the whole 
day. The airfield was rendered useless. 
Ships disappeared from the lagoon, and 
even antiaircraft fire became scarce and 
ineffective. Strafing and bombing had left 
the installations virtually in ruins and had 



so completely isolated the atoll that after 
22 December only submarines and small 
fishing craft ventured into the area. All of 
the latter were destroyed. 46 

Maloelap 

Although Mille was extremely danger- 
ous to American bases and offensive efforts 
because of its nearness to the Gilberts, 
Maloelap was considered the greatest po- 
tential threat to operations in the Mar- 
shall. Taroa, the principal island of this 
atoll was, except for Kwajalein, the most 



46 Operational History of the Seventh Air Force, 6 
Nov 43-31 Jul 44. This account of operations against 
all the Marshall atolls has been reconstructed from 
the chronological log attached to the operations re- 
port. See also Craven and Cate, AAF IV, pp. 302-10. 



196 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 




TAROA AFTER BEING BOMBED 



important air base between Tarawa and 
Truk. It bristled with antiaircraft installa- 
tions and heavy guns; its airfields sup- 
ported by far the largest number of planes 
in the eastern Marshalls; its garrison was 
well armed. 

The first post-Gilberts air strike on this 
formidable base was carried out by ten 
B-24's flying from Nanomea on 26 No- 
vember. Primarily directed against Taroa's 
runways, the planes dropped twenty-two 
tons of bombs from an altitude of approxi- 
mately 10,000 feet. Of the two interceptors 
that arose to meet the attack one was shot 
down. 

Between 26 November and 10 January 
all flights against Maloelap were made by 
B-24's, flying from Nanomea, Nukufetau, 



and Canton. The round-trip distance from 
the two former bases was 2,000 to 2,200 
miles, and the Canton squadrons staged 
through Baker Island on round-trip flights 
of approximately 3,100 miles. All flights 
were met by interceptors. For thirty to 
fifty minutes on each flight bomber crews 
were forced to fight their way into the tar- 
get and out again. During the period nine 
B-24's were shot down by enemy action 
and fifty-nine Japanese fighters were de- 
stroyed. Damage to the Maloelap base was 
extensive, but not crippling. Large fires 
were started, buildings destroyed, and two 
ships bombed with inconclusive results. 
Runways were never put entirely out of 
operation, always being repaired the same 
day they were damaged. 



TRAINING, LOGISTICS, AND PRELIMINARY OPERATIONS 



197 



The second period of the offensive 
against Maloelap can be said to have be- 
gun on 1 1 January, when the long flights 
from the south were superseded by shorter 
and more frequent strikes by B-25's. The 
character of the fighting did not greatly 
change, however. As late as 26 January 
about twenty-five interceptors rose to meet 
the attack. The pounding of Taroa and 
adjacent islands in the atoll continued. 
Between 1 1 and 25 January inclusive, ap- 
proximately seventy tons of bombs were 
dropped from the light bombers flying at 
treetop level, and the island was system- 
atically strafed by machine gun fire and 
75-mm. shells from the B-25's. Fifteen en- 
emy fighters were destroyed as against an 
American loss of six B-25's. Shipping was 
thoroughly cleared from the lagoon, and 
the ground installations seemed to be to- 
tally destroyed; but the airfield remained 
in operation. 

The last phase of the attack on this stub- 
born base was begun on 26 January with 
the introduction of fighter escorts for the 
B-25's. On the first day nine B-25's, fol- 
lowed at a considerable distance by twelve 
P-40's, flew into Taroa for a low-level at- 
tack. The B-25's destroyed nine intercep- 
tors on the ground and five more after 
they were airborne. The control tower and 
two other buildings on the airfield were 
set afire and four tons of bombs were 
dropped in fuel dump and dispersal areas, 
starting large fires. As the B-25's left the 
target to' return to Makin they were fol- 
lowed by about fifteen Japanese fighters. 
Thirty miles south of Maloelap the twelve 
P-40's met the bomber formation and im- 
mediately engaged the enemy fighters, de- 
stroying eleven of them and severely dam- 
aging two more. 

The strike of 26 January was decisive. 
Practically all of the remaining enemy air 



strength at Maloelap had been destroyed, 
and the once formidable base was ren- 
dered almost powerless to defend itself 
against air strikes. On 27 January a forma- 
tion of seven B-24's struck Taroa from 
Makin, dropping seventeen tons of bombs 
on the airfield area, setting fire to more 
dumps and damaging the runway. No in- 
terception was attempted although a few 
planes were sighted on the ground. On 28 
January, the tactics of the first bomber- 
fighter attack were repeated, the airfield 
on Taroa again being the target. Five 
enemy planes managed to become air- 
borne, but their pilots were neither aggres- 
sive nor experienced. One was shot down 
by the B-25's, but when the formation 
attempted to lead the other enemy planes 
back toward the fighter escort, the engage- 
ment was broken off. The last low-level 
attack was made on 29 January, the B-25's 
attacking ammunition dumps and build- 
ings on the outer islands. There were no 
signs of enemy planes. Maloelap had been 
almost completely neutralized at last, and 
only on the day the carrier task force 
moved into the Marshalls. 

Jaluit 

Because of its reduced importance as a 
naval base and its lack of air installations, 
Jaluit received much less attention than 
Mille and Maloelap. Two strikes against 
this former administrative center of the 
Marshalls had been conducted during the 
action preliminary to the Gilberts invasion. 
On 23 November, as the action at Makin 
and Tarawa was drawing to a close, eight 
B-24's struck Jaluit from Nukufetau, drop- 
ping eight tons of bombs on the target and 
meeting little opposition. Three float-type 
fighters were seen, but instead of attacking 
the bombers they flew off in the opposite 



198 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 




WOTJE UNDER AIR ATTACK. Note columns of smoke rising from hits on the runway. 



direction. Only two more strikes were di- 
rected at Jaluit before the opening of bases 
in the Gilberts. In both cases large fires 
were started. There was no interception on 
either raid and only moderate antiaircraft 
opposition. 

From 12 December through 29 January 
Jaluit was subjected to a total of thirteen 
separate strikes, mostly by attack bombers 
and fighters from Makin and Tarawa. 
Concentrating on low-level bombing and 
strafing, the strikes reduced Jaluit to 
rubble. Oil and ammunition dumps, com- 
munications facilities, and buildings were 
destroyed. Three ships were sunk in the 
lagoon. At no time during this entire 
period were the attackers intercepted by 
enemy planes, although antiaircraft fire 
was usually intense and accurate. By the 
time the carrier task force approached, 



two days before the invasion of Kwajalein, 
Jaluit had been reduced to impotence. It 
could send neither reinforcements nor air 
support to the garrison that would need 
help. 

Wotje 

No American strike at Wotje was con- 
ducted until 13 December, when ten 
B-24's made the 3,100 mile round trip 
from Canton, staging through Baker. One 
subsequent raid by the same route was 
made before 23 December, on which day 
bombers based at Canton carried out the 
first of a series of three flights through 
Tarawa. After 8 January both B-24's and 
B-25's, using the new bases at Makin and 
Tarawa, made ten strikes on Wotje in the 
period through 29 January. On only one 



TRAINING, LOGISTICS, AND PRELIMINARY OPERATIONS 



199 



occasion did Japanese fighters intercept 
the flights. On 26 December six planes at- 
tacked a formation of seventeen B-24's. 

During the period 13 December-29 
January approximately 325 tons of bombs 
were dropped on Wotje. As in the other 
Marshalls atolls the primary targets were 
airfields, dumps, and shipping. A few 
cargo vessels were found in Wotje Lagoon 
as late as 29 January, but every other form 
of communication with the outside world, 
except possibly radio, had been destroyed. 

Kwajalein 

Because, with the exception of Eniwe- 
tok, it was the farthest west of all the prin- 
cipal atolls of the Marshalls, Kwajalein 
received relatively little attention from the 
Seventh Air Force bombers. During the 
preliminaries to the Gilberts invasion a 
group of eight B-24's had attempted the 
flight from Nanomea, but because of bad 
weather and the great distance only one 
plane managed to get through to drop 
fragmentation bombs on Roi-Namur. The 
next Seventh Air Force strike against 
Kwajalein (there was in the meantime a 
carrier strike on 4 December) came on 21 
December, when four B-24's and four 
PB4Y photoreconnaissance planes from 
Nanomea succeeded in dropping six tons 
of bombs on various islands of the atoll and 
in taking valuable pictures of installations. 
Although they were intercepted by nine 
fighters, none of the planes was lost. 

In nine subsequent missions during De- 
cember and January, about 200 tons of 
bombs were distributed throughout the 
atoll, causing some damage to installations 
and shipping. No interception of Amer- 
ican land-based bombers was made after 
22 January. As late as 29 January, how- 
ever, the airfield at Roi-Namur was still 



operative, and the Japanese had continued 
to bring in planes. 

Preliminary Naval Action 

One naval strike was delivered against 
the Marshalls in the period between 24 
November and 29 January. The force for 
this strike, Task Groups 58. 1 and 58.3, was 
organized from Task Force 50, 47 which had 
supported the Gilberts invasion while the 
ships were still west of Makin and Tarawa 
late in November. Admiral Pownall com- 
bined most of the vessels of his Interceptor 
and Northern and Southern Carrier 
Groups into two new task groups for move- 
ment to the target area. Upon arrival 
there the two groups were brought to- 
gether for operation against Kwajalein 
Atoll and Wotje. 

Pownall's task groups consisted of six fast 
carriers, five heavy cruisers, two light 
cruisers, three of the new class of antiair- 
craft cruisers, and twelve destroyers. After 
a rendezvous for refueling 820 miles north- 
east of Kwajalein Atoll on 1 December, 
the force moved southwest and arrived un- 
observed near Kwajalein on the morning 
of 4 December. The first planes were 
launched at 0630. A total of 246 took part 
in the various attacks on this atoll. 48 

At Roi-Namur the early flights discov- 
ered Japanese planes parked on the air- 
strip and many fighters airborne. In addi- 
tion, two light cruisers and one large 
freighter were at anchor off the islands. In 
the ensuing engagement, nineteen of the 



47 In January 1950, the designation Task Force 50 
was taken over by Admiral Spruance's Fifth Fleet. 
The fast carrier force of the Central Pacific became 
Task Force 58, and was commanded by Admiral 
Mitscher. 

48 CINCPAC-CINCPOA Opns in POA, Dec 43, 
Annex A, pp. 6-8. 




ACTION AT KWAJALEIN. Cargo ships at anchor in the lagoon (left-hand page) are sitting ducks 




for U.S. carrier-based planes. Japanese torpedo planes strike back at the U.S. task force ( right-hand page) 



202 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



interceptors were destroyed, and one Jap- 
anese medium bomber was shot down as it 
tried to escape from the field. Three more 
bombers were destroyed on the ground, 
but most of the remainder of the Japanese 
aircraft on the ground escaped damage 
because the American pilots did not re- 
ceive word of their camouflaged locations. 
Several hits were scored on the cruisers 
and the freighter. 

No planes were found at Kwajalein 
Island since the field there was still under 
construction. Nearly thirty cargo vessels 
of various types were anchored, however, 
in the lagoon off" this island. Seven of these 
were sunk and several others damaged. At 
a nearby island two large multiengined 
flying boats were strafed and set on fire. 

At noon, while the strikes on Roi- 
Namur and Kwajalein Island were still in 
progress, twenty-nine aircraft attacked 
Wotje, where they destroyed five planes on 
the ground and set fire to hangars, ma- 
chine shops, and barracks. At both Kwa- 
jalein and Wotje complete photographic 
coverage was secured. 

The original plans for the carrier attack 
on Kwajalein had contemplated a two- 
day strike, but shortly before noon of the 
first day enemy planes, evidently from 
Roi-Namur, began a series of counterat- 
tacks on the carrier groups. Although no se- 
rious damage was inflicted in these daylight 
attempts to sink the carriers, recovery of 
planes was hampered by the maneuvers 
the attacks made necessary. One of the 
carriers received a torpedo hit but for- 
tunately was not sunk. The task groups 
withdrew the next day, and the rest of the 
strike was abandoned. 

Damage to the enemy's bases had been 
extensive. It was considered necessary, 
however, for the land-based planes of the 
Seventh Air Force to continue attacks 
upon Kwajalein and Wotje, and in actual- 



ity a considerable portion of the task of 
softening Japanese resistance upon Kwa- 
jalein was left to the larger carrier force 
that would arrive in the area on 29 Jan- 
uary just ahead of the landing forces. 

Approach of the Invasion Force 

By 20 January 1944 all preparations in 
the Hawaiian Islands for the invasion of 
the Marshalls were completed. Although 
it was to be surpassed in size later, the 
combined ground, air, and naval force 
that was ready to sail for the Marshalls at 
that time comprised the largest expedition 
ever assembled in the Pacific under the 
American flag. About half of the expedi- 
tion had originated in the Hawaiian 
Islands, but its other elements had moved 
there from points as widely separated as 
San Diego on the west coast, the Fiji 
Islands, the Samoan Islands, and the Ellice 
Islands. 

Plans called for the neutralization phase 
to be followed by simultaneous assaults on 
Majuro, northern Kwajalein, and south- 
ern Kwajalein. After the month of inten- 
sive bombing and strafing raids by the 
Seventh Air Force against airfields and 
shipping, Mille and Jaluit were almost 
useless to the enemy. Wotje and the great 
base at Maloelap were largely neutralized, 
but there were numerous Japanese aircraft 
at Roi-Namur at the time of the carrier 
strike on 29 January. Task Force 58 — with 
its four separate groups of carriers, battle- 
ships, cruisers, and destroyers and its 700 
carrier-based planes — was to enter the 
Marshalls area on 29 January, two days 
before D Day, to complete the neutraliza- 
tion. 49 

All of the task groups sailed from the 
Hawaiian Islands within a few hours of 

4a GINGPAC-GINCPOA Opns in POA, Feb 44, 
Annex A, pp. 10, 11. 



TRAINING, LOGISTICS, AND PRELIMINARY OPERATIONS 



203 



their scheduled times of departure. For the 
assault troops the day of departure was 22 
January. The Southern Attack Force de- 
parted from Pearl Harbor and Honolulu, 
while the Northern Attack Force sailed on 
the same day from Lahaina Roadstead in 
the outer islands after a thirty-hour break 
in their journey from San Diego. The 
southern force moved about thirty-five 
miles ahead of the northern group. Em- 
barkation had taken most of the preceding 
day, and the slower-moving LST groups 
carrying the amphtracks and a detach- 
ment of the 1st Marine Defense Battalion 
for the defense of Majuro had cast off and 
departed while the main convoy was being 
prepared. The Attack Force Reserve and 
the Majuro Attack Group left together on 
23 January. The reserve force was to go to 
no specified destination other than the 
general vicinity of the three landings, 
any one of which might require reinforce- 
ment. 50 

The American submarines that had 
been operating throughout the Marshalls 
area for the past month now took stations 
to the west. Three patrolled near Truk, 
one near Ponape, one near Kusaie, and 
one near Eniwetok. 51 

The week's voyage to the area of the 
eastern Marshalls was made by all the 
groups without mishap. At dawn on 29 
January the four task groups of Task Force 
58 and the Neutralization Group (Task 
Group 50. 1 5) moved into the first attack 
positions assigned to them. Despite squally 
weather and overcast skies, which severely 
handicapped action, Rear Adm. John W. 
Reeves of Task Group 58.1 launched air- 
craft from Enterprise, Torktown, and Belleau 
Wood. A few moments later the planes were 
attacking Taroa, giving special attention 
to the airfields and shipping. Air strikes 
were continued all day, and by nightfall 
Taroa's airfield, which had still been con- 



sidered able to put up interceptors, was 
completely neutralized. The second task 
group (Task Group 58.2) of Task Force 58, 
under Admiral Montgomery, had mean- 
while attacked Roi-Namur. Planes from 
Essex, Intrepid, and Cabot bucked north- 
easterly winds to bomb and strafe once 
more the important airfield at that base. 
Ninety-two enemy planes were based on 
Roi airfield when the attack developed. 
Command of the air was seized by Amer- 
ican planes at the outset and after 0800 no 
enemy planes was seen airborne over Roi- 
Namur. Numerous hits were made on run- 
ways, hangars, fuel dumps, and gun 
positions. 

The third group (Task Group 58.3) of 
Task Force 58 had sortied from Funafuti 
under the command of Admiral Frederick 
Sherman. An hour before sunrise the 
group took position southwest of Kwaja- 
lein Island and planes of Cowpens, Monterey, 
and Bunker Hill took off for the target. The 
airfield and adjacent buildings on Kwaja- 
lein Island were bombed on the first strike. 
During the rest of the day the remainder 
of Kwajalein Island was subjected to straf- 
ing and bombing. During the evening 
Admiral Sherman's group moved north- 
westward toward Eniwetok to be in posi- 
tion to launch an attack at dawn of D 
minus 1. The fourth task group (Task 
Group 58.4), under Rear Adm. Samuel P. 
Ginder, included the carriers Saratoga, 
Princeton, and Langley. It sent a succession 
of flights against Wotje, beginning early in 
the day and met very little serious opposi- 
tion. 52 In addition to the attack, Wotje was 
subjected to fire by units of Task Group 
50.15. 

While the carriers were still operating 
in the vicinity of the targets, land-based 

50 Ibid., Annex A, p. 21. 

51 Ibid., p. 17. 

52 Ibid., pp. 10-15. 



204 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 




ROI AIRFIELD. The causeway connecting Roi and Namur is shown in upper left. Note 
height of smoke columns as indicated by ground shadows. 



planes from the Gilberts joined in the gen- 
eral attack. At Kwajalein one flight of 
seven B-24's dropped fifteen tons of bombs 
on Roi-Namur and three more tons on 
Kwajalein Island during the morning and 
early afternoon. As the carrier planes re- 
tired at dusk another seven heavy bombers 
arrived for a night attack, dropping twenty 
tons of bombs on Kwajalein Island. 53 

At Wotje, flying through heavy over- 
cast, one flight of three B-24's dropped 
seven tons of bombs, causing fires and 
damaging the runways. A few hours later 
a flight of nine B-25's dropped three tons 
of bombs on the island in a low-level at- 
tack and strafed and sank a small cargo 
vessel in the lagoon. During this late at- 
tack carrier planes from the task force mis- 



takenly intercepted the B-25's and shot 
down two before it was realized they were 
American planes. 

Maloelap, Jaluit, and Mille also re- 
ceived land-based attacks during the day. 
At Taroa, two and a half tons of bombs 
were dropped by B-25's, which then joined 
carrier planes in strafing the island. At 
Jaluit, attack bombers and fighters 
dropped seven tons of bombs and after- 
wards strafed the island. Mille was covered 
all day by twenty fighters, flying in flights 
of four. Planes that had been scheduled to 
strike these targets but that were unable 
to get through because of weather or me- 
chanical difficulty flew over Mille on the 

53 Operational History of Seventh Air Force, 6 Nov 
43-31 Jul 44, pp. 121, 122. 



TRAINING, LOGISTICS, AND PRELIMINARY OPERATIONS 



205 



way back to American bases in the Gil- 
berts and dropped their bomb loads on the 
islands of that atoll. 

The air strikes from the various task 
groups were supplemented by naval bom- 
bardment from battleships, cruisers, and 
destroyers in the carrier groups. In the 
cases of Wotje and Maloelap the Neutral- 
ization Group moved in when the faster 
ships had finished their day's work late on 
the afternoon of 29 January. 

While the initial strikes of this day were 
going forward, Task Forces 52 and 53, con- 
veying the two landing forces, were about 
to enter the waters between the two chains 
of atolls. Approaching from the northeast, 
their gradually converging courses finally 
met north of Ailuk Atoll in the eastern 
chain, approximately 200 miles east of 
Kwajalein. The tractor groups were still 
ahead although their lead was being 
steadily reduced. In another twenty-four 
hours it disappeared. 

On the morning of 30 January the de- 
stroyers and cruisers accompanying the 
landing forces turned aside to bombard 
Maloelap and Wotje, joining the other 
forces already there. During the afternoon 
the vessels resumed their journey to Kwa- 
jalein, joining the main convoys there in 
time for the bombardment preparatory to 
the landings of the two assault groups. On 
30 January the strikes of carrier-based air- 
craft continued at Kwajalein, Wotje, 
Taroa, and Roi-Namur, but with some ad- 
justment in forces to allow one task group 
to take Eniwetok under attack. This task 
group, which on the previous day had 
struck Kwajalein Island, had now moved 
northwestward toward the new target. Its 
place was taken by Task Group 58.1, 
which had previously been engaged at 
Taroa. Task Group 58.4, which had pre- 
viously been concerned only with Wotje, 



now assumed responsibility for continued 
neutralization of Taroa as well. Task 
Group 58.2 continued to be primarily con- 
cerned with Roi-Namur. 

The group attacking Wotje and Taroa 
concentrated upon runways at Taroa and 
airfield installations and buildings at 
Wotje. At Kwajalein Island and Roi- 
Namur over 400 sorties were flown. Dur- 
ing the afternoon surface ships of the force 
conducted a four-hour bombardment of 
both targets. Task Group 58.3 launched 
its planes for the attack on Eniwetok at 
0450. Torpedo bombers, which made the 
first sweep over the atoll, and later fighters 
found and destroyed nineteen planes on 
the ground. In subsequent action virtually 
every building in the atoll was destroyed, 
the runways were filled with craters, and 
various defensive positions were taken un- 
der gunfire from the surface ships. Task 
Group 58.3 was to remain south of Eniwe- 
tok until 6 February and was to be joined 
there by Task Group 58.4, which would 
move from the Wotje- Maloelap area on 3 
February. 

While the second day's bombardment 
was being carried out, the Northern and 
Southern Attack Forces remained on 
course together for approximately half the 
distance between Ailuk and Kwajalein, 
then separated, each going directly to its 
own transport and fire support area off 
Kwajalein. All elements arrived in their 
assigned places during the night of 30-31 
January. Lights could be seen on Kwaja- 
lein Island by troops aboard the ships of 
the Southern Task Force as the vessels 
neared the end of their journey. These 
lights were presumably from fires started 
by the air strikes of the day just passed. 
Before the sun rose on the new day, the 
first phase of the occupation of Kwajalein 
Island was to begin. 



CHAPTER XIII 



Japanese Defenses in 
the Marshalls 



Before Pearl Harbor 

Under the terms of Article 22 of the 
Covenant of the League of Nations, Japan 
was bound to prevent "the establishment 
of fortifications of military and naval 
bases" in the former German possessions in 
the Pacific mandated to her — the Mari- 
anas, Palaus, Carolines, and Marshalls. 
The neutralization of other Japanese-held 
islands was guaranteed by the Washing- 
ton Naval Limitations Treaty of 1922, 
signed by the United States and Japan, as 
well as by the British Empire, France, and 
Italy. 1 On 27 March 1933, Japan gave the 
required two years' notice of her intention 
to withdraw from the League, and the offi- 
cial withdrawal was consummated on 27 
March two years later. This action, being 
unilateral, did not relieve Japan of her ob- 
ligation not to fortify the mandated islands 
under the terms of the Covenant. 2 How- 
ever, the League was powerless to enforce 
the Covenant and after 1935 the islands 
were for the most part closed to foreign visi- 
tors. From 1935 until 1944 the nature and 
extent of Japanese activities in the man- 
dated islands remained veiled in mystery. 
One inevitable result of this policy of exclu- 
sion, coupled with the known aggressive 
intentions of the Japanese Empire on the 
Asiatic mainland, was in the late 1930's to 



raise grave suspicions among the Western 
powers that Japan was fortifying the islands 
contrary to her commitments stipulated 
under the terms of the League Covenant. 
One Australian commentator put it, "It is 
believed that Japan has assembled, in these 
islands, equipment and supplies which 
would be of great value to her in any policy 
of aggression." 3 Evidence brought to light 
since the close of World War II amply 
justifies the suspicion. 

From 1934 through 1941 the Japanese 
undertook considerable construction activ- 
ity in their island possessions, allegedly for 
nonmilitary purposes. According to the 
testimony of Capt. Hidemi Yoshida, IJN, 
who was intimately connected with naval 
construction in the mandates, this program 
was aimed primarily at the building of 
"cultural and industrial facilities." 4 Under 
the category of "cultural and industrial 
facilities" were listed such items as ramps 
and runways for aircraft, wireless stations, 
direction finders, meteorological stations, 
and lighthouses. These improvements, 
Yoshida claimed, were necessary for safe 
navigation, promotion of commerce, and 
other peaceful pursuits. 

1 Myers, Handbook of the League of Nations, p. 378; 
IPS Document 6257, p. 13. 

2 IMTFE Proceedings, pp. 39, 43, 205-16, 408-15. 

3 Robson, Year Book, p. 94. 

4 IMTFE Defense Document 1518, pp. 4-5. 



JAPANESE DEFENSES IN THE MARSHALLS 



207 



Unquestionably many of these installa- 
tions could be employed for commercial 
purposes. It is equally true that their na- 
ture was such as to permit an easy conver- 
sion to military uses, if the situation so 
demanded. It also appears certain that the 
Japanese made a deliberate effort to dis- 
guise military construction projects in the 
cloak of harmless peaceful endeavors. For 
example, in 1940 the Naval Secretariat 
set aside the sum of 4,635,750 yen 
($ 1 ,086,6 1 9.80) for lighthouse construction 
throughout the Palaus, Carolines, and 
Marshalls. Among the items authorized for 
these "lighthouses" were military barracks, 
generators, ammunition storage buildings, 
command posts, lookout stations, roads, 
and water storage facilities. No mention 
was made of towers, searchlights, bells, fog- 
horns, or the other paraphernalia usually 
associated with such aids to navigation. 5 

Whatever the extent of Japanese mili- 
tary construction in the Pacific islands was 
before 1940, it is clear that from that year 
until the outbreak of war with the Allied 
Powers in December 194 1 the mandated 
islands were being fortified as rapidly as 
conditions would permit. 

Late in 1939 the 4th Fleet of the Impe- 
rial Japanese Navy was organized and 
charged with the mission of protecting the 
mandated area. With headquarters at 
Truk, the 4th Fleet's area of command 
roughly coincided with the area mandated 
to Japan. After the commencement of hos- 
tilities Wake, Guam, the Gilberts, Nauru 
and Ocean Islands were added. This 
"fleet" had only a few combat vessels under 
its command, its primary duties being to 
build up and defend air and naval bases in 
Japan's island possessions. Throughout 
1940 the 4th Fleet existed mostly on paper, 
and did not really start to grow until the 
end of the year. 



About the same time that the 4th Fleet 
was being activated, the Imperial Navy 
sent a large team to survey the Marshalls 
with the object of laying plans for a fairly 
large-scale construction program. Up until 
late 1939 far more attention had been de- 
voted to the Carolines and Marianas than 
to the more distant Marshalls. Now, im- 
provements in warships and naval weap- 
ons, and especially the advent of heavy 
land-based bombers, forced the Japanese 
to re-evaluate the importance of the Mar- 
shalls and to concentrate more heavily on 
their defense. 6 

In January 1941, the 6th Base Force was 
activated as a subordinate command and 
assigned to the Marshalls, where it re- 
mained to command the Marshalls sector 
until destroyed by the American invasion 
of Kwajalein. At the same time, a subordi- 
nate unit, the 6th Defense Force, was also 
activated and arrived in the Marshalls in 
March. 7 Finally, in September 1941, three 
guard forces (the 51st, 52d and 53d) were 
activated and ordered to the Marshalls 
where they were made directly responsible 
to the 6th Base Force for the defense of 
Jaluit, Maloelap, and Wotje. 8 Similar units 
were dispatched to the other mandates at 
the same time. 

Concurrently with this movement of 
troops and workers into the Marshalls, air- 
field construction in the area was acceler- 
ated. Early in 1941 the 4th Fleet assumed 
control of all unfinished aircraft installa- 



5 Special Forces, Early Series, Vol. 9, NA 12226, 
WDC 160867. 

6 USSBS (Pacific), Naval Analysis Division, The Re- 
duction of Truk (Washington, 1947), p. 2; Japanese 
Studies in World War II, No. 173, Marshall Islands 
Operations, pp. 5-6, OCMH. 

7 Base Forces, Early Series, Vol. 9, NA 12245, WDC 
160869. 

8 Base Forces, Early Series, Vol. 10, NA 12229, 
WDG 160867; Special Forces, Early Series, Vol. 10, 
NA 12255, WDG 161009. 



208 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



tions and also commenced many new proj- 
ects. Most of the money appropriated for 
the defense of the mandated islands was 
allocated to the building of airfields and 
other aircraft facilities. During the period 
16 November 1940 to 31 May 1941, a total 
of 49,526,396 yen ($11,608,987.22) was 
appropriated for airfield and seaplane base 
construction and this figure represented 
about 70 percent of the total sum appro- 
priated for the erection of defenses in the 
islands. 

Work on other types of installations was 
also commenced and in most cases com- 
pleted before the attack on Pearl Harbor. 
Communications installations were con- 
centrated on the four islands or atolls 
where four base force headquarters were 
located — Truk, Saipan, Palau, and Kwaja- 
lein. Barracks were placed on the most 
important islands and atolls, while office 
construction was concentrated mostly at 
Truk, with lesser concentrations at Saipan 
and Palau. Saipan and Palau were supply 
centers and staging points for the advance 
into the Philippines and into the south 
after the start of the war. Fuel oil and coal 
storage facilities, including tanks and 
pumps, were highly important since they 
extended the effective range of the Japa- 
nese fleet beyond the main bases in the 
homeland. Such facilities had been located 
at Saipan, Truk, Palau, Ponape, and Jaluit 
according to earlier appropriations. Later 
construction projects activated near the 
close of 1941 under 4 th Fleet administration 
included fueling facilities at Wotje, Taroa, 
Roi, Eniwetok, and Kwajalein, all in the 
Marshalls. Submarine bases were estab- 
lished at Truk, Ponape, and Roi. Gun posi- 
tions were placed on Palau, Saipan, Taroa, 
Roi, Wotje, and Jaluit in the latter part of 
1941. As was the case in fueling facilities, 
the Marshalls were developed as military 



bases later than the Marianas and Caro- 
lines. First, priority went to Truk, Saipan, 
and Palau, with concurrent but less impor- 
tant developments of Ponape, Pagan, and 
Tinian. Later, priority was given to four 
atolls in the Marshalls — Jaluit, Wotje, 
Maloelap, and Kwajalein — with minor 
attention to Majuro and Eniwetok. Water 
installations, command posts, ammunition 
storage facilities, and minor fortifications 
were ubiquitous. 9 

Prewar Japanese records of garrison 
forces stationed in the Marshalls leave no 
doubt that extensive military developments 
were undertaken before Pearl Harbor. The 
6th Base Force, which was assigned the mis- 
sion of defending these islands, reached 
Wotje early in 1941. It was transferred the 
following August to Kwajalein, which then 
became the administrative center of the 
Marshalls sector of the 4th Fleet's area of 
responsibility. The main troop concentra- 
tions under the 6th Base Force coincided 
with the concentration of construction 
projects on the four atolls of Kwajalein, 
Wotje, Jaluit, and Maloelap. Mille, which 
was to be extensively developed during the 
war, was at this time merely a lookout sta- 
tion. The mission of the 6th Base Force was 
to defend the Marshall Islands and adja- 
cent sea areas, plan the rapid completion 
of accelerated military preparations within 
the area and strengthen preparations for 
actual combat, plan and supervise all types 
of measures relating to defense and attack 
and for supply and transportation service, 
engage in all types of combat training, and 
conduct weather observation in the Mar- 
shalls area. 10 



9 4th Fleet Construction File, Special Forces, Early 
Series, Vols. 9 and 10, NA 12226 and 12255, WDC 
160867 and 161009. 

10 Base Forces, Early Series, Vol. 10, NA 12229, 
WDC 160867. 



JAPANESE DEFENSES IN THE MARSHALLS 



209 



The 6th Defense Force, which reached the 
Marshalls in March 1941, included four 
gun batteries distributed, one battery 
apiece, to Wotje, Kwajalein, Maloelap, 
and Jaluit. Its mission was to construct 
gun positions and other defense installa- 
tions on each of these islands; supply ships, 
special lookout stations, and weather sta- 
tions; send out antiair and antisubmarine 
patrols; and conduct accelerated training 
for all types of warfare. 11 

Still another group assigned to the Mar- 
shalls was the 6th Communications Unit, 
whose prewar missions were to maintain 
communications and liaison in the Mar- 
shalls area, with fleet units, and with the 
homeland, and to intercept foreign com- 
munications. 12 Finally, the 51st, 52d,a.nd 
53d Guard Forces arrived at Jaluit, Maloe- 
lap, and Wotje in October and November 
1941 with the general duties of defense of 
those atolls. 13 

Thus it can be seen that, in the year or 
more preceding the attack on Pearl Har- 
bor, the Marshalls along with the other 
mandated islands were becoming rapidly 
integrated into the Japanese defensive sys- 
tem. Contrary to the Covenant of the 
League of Nations and to the treaty of 
Washington, Japan had fortified those 
islands, established air bases there for mili- 
tary purposes, and garrisoned them with 
armed troops. With the outbreak of actual 
hostilities this program was to be rapidly 
accelerated. 

From Pearl Harbor to the Eve of 
Invasion of the Marshalls 

The period from the beginning of the 
war to the middle of 1943 saw consider- 
able expansion of the 6th Base Force. Wake, 
after its seizure, was placed under 6th Base 
Force command and extensively developed. 



Early in 1942 Makin was made a seaplane 
base and, after Carlson's raid, the Gilberts 
with Nauru and Ocean were strongly gar- 
risoned by forces under 6th Base Force com- 
mand. During this eighteen-month period, 
Mille was transformed from a lookout sta- 
tion to a major base, while installations 
and fortifications on Kwajalein, Jaluit, 
Maloelap, and Wotje were constantly im- 
proved. In June of 1943 the 66th Guard 
Force was activated at Yokosuka and as- 
signed to Mille. 14 Originally, the Japanese 
had intended to use this atoll as a staging 
point for aircraft in a proposed campaign 
against the Ellice, Fiji, and Samoan Is- 
lands, a plan abandoned after the Amer- 
ican invasion of the Gilberts. 15 Some air 
facilities were completed by November 
1942, but the atoll was not fully developed 
until a year later. By that time Mille was 
one of the best defended atolls and had the 
largest garrison in the Marshalls if Kwaja- 
lein and Roi-Namur are counted sepa- 
rately. 

The latter half of 1943 was distin- 
guished by a marked increase in the num- 
ber of troops, especially Army personnel, 
dispatched to the Marshalls. Up to that 
time the Marshalls had been garrisoned 
exclusively by Navy units, but in early 
1943 it had become apparent to the Japa- 
nese that they were faced with a series of 
probable defeats so long as their forces 
continued to be tied up in the Solomons- 
New Guinea area. The deterioration of the 



"Base Forces, Early Series, Vol. 9, NA 12245, 
WDC 160869; Special Forces, Early Series, Vol. 10, 
NA 12255, WDC 161009. 

12 Special Forces, Early Series, Vols. 9 and 10, NA 
12226 and 12255, WDC 160867 and 161009. 

"Base Forces, Early Series, Vol. 10, NA 12229, 
WDC 160867. 

14 Tabular Records of Special Landing Forces, NA 
11651, WDC 161406. 

15 USSBS, The American Campaign Against Wotje, 
Maloelap, Mille and Jaluit, p. 18. 



210 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



Japanese position in the southeast posed a 
threat to the island garrisons of the Central 
Pacific, which were considered too weak to 
ward off American attack. The Japanese 
responded by drawing Army units from 
the Philippines, Manchuria, and the home- 
land and dispatching them to the Central 
Pacific. 16 

By the end of August 1943 the Japanese 
position in the Southeastern Pacific Area 
was such that all thought of offensive op- 
erations had to be abandoned. The sur- 
render of Italy on 8 September was a 
further blow to the Japanese Empire, for 
it was felt that a powerful portion of the 
British fleet would be freed to bring pres- 
sure on the Indian Ocean front. Until this 
time, the Japanese defense perimeter had 
run through the Marshalls, Gilberts, the 
Southeastern Pacific Area, the Nether- 
lands Indies, and Burma. Now the Solo- 
mons and New Guinea were cracking, ex- 
posing the Gilberts and Marshalls to the 
ever-increasing danger of American at- 
tack. Hence, the old defensive perimeter 
had to be abandoned and a new one 
erected in its place. On 15 September Im- 
perial General Headquarters decided to 
contract the perimeter to a line running 
from the Banda Sea through the Carolines 
and Marianas. The new line was to be 
made impregnable to American assault 
during the time gained by delaying actions 
in the Marshalls and Gilberts, and in the 
Japanese Southeastern Pacific Area. Thus, 
these areas were written off as a loss as 
early as September, but the Japanese were 
determined to make the American ad- 
vance toward their new perimeter as costly 
as possible in order to gain time and wear 
down the American will to fight. It was in 
accordance with this strategic concept of 
fighting a delaying action in the Marshalls 
that Imperial General Headquarters de- 



cided to send large numbers of Army rein- 
forcements there in September 1943. 17 

Army units in Japan, the Philippines, 
and Manchuria were reorganized as am- 
phibious brigades and South Seas detach- 
ments, and dispatched to the Central Pa- 
cific as fast as possible. 18 Even though the 
Marshalls had been written off as inde- 
fensible from the long-range point of view, 
they received a considerable share of the 
Army reinforcements because of the Japa- 
nese intention to conduct strong delaying 
actions there. The troops were distributed 
mostly on the periphery — on the atolls and 
islands of Wake, Eniwetok, Kusaie, and 
Mille. Kwajalein, Jaluit, Maloelap, and 
Wotje already had sizable garrisons, while 
those on the peripheral islands, except 
Wake, had been previously quite small. 

By January of 1944 Army troops in the 
Marshalls, Wake, and Kusaie totaled 
13,721. The units involved were the 1st 
South Seas Detachment; the 1st Amphibious 
Brigade, A Detachment; the 2d South Seas De- 
tachment; and the 3d South Seas Garrison De- 
tachment. They were distributed among the 
islands and atolls as follows: Kwajalein, 
933; Jaluit, 620; Maloelap, 404; Wotje, 
667; Mille, 2,530; Eniwetok, 2,586; Wake, 
2,050; and Kusaie, 3,931. 19 

16 Japanese Studies in World War II, No. 72, His- 
tory of the Army Section, Imperial General Head- 
quarters, 1941-45, p. 77, OCMH. 

17 Ibid., pp. 87-88; Japanese Studies in World War 

II, No. 55, Operations in the Central Pacific, pp. 8-9, 
and No. 50, Southeast Area Naval Operations, Vol. 

III, pp. 1-5, OCMH. The Japanese Southeastern Pa- 
cific Area conformed roughly to the American South- 
west Pacific Area. 

18 CINCPAC-CINCPOA Translation 9499A, Or- 
der of Battle for Palau Sector, Marshalls, Marcus, 
Wake and Kusaie. 

,! * JICPOA Translation 6234, Distribution of Forces 
and Dispositions of the 1st South Seas Detachment; 
JICPOA Bull 88-44, 1st Amphibious Brigade, Japanese 
Army, 13Jun 44; JICPOA Bull 89-44, Japanese De- 
fense of Eniwetok Atoll, 12 Jun 44; CINCPAC- 
CINCPOA Translation 9614, Summary of the Re- 



JAPANESE DEFENSES IN THE MARSHALLS 



211 



The military background of these Army 
units was not especially impressive. The 1st 
South Seas Detachment was the only one ex- 
perienced in combat. As part of the 122d 
Infantry Regiment, it had arrived in the 
Philippines late on New Year's Day 1942 
and saw action shortly after landing. Al- 
though originally designed as a garrison 
unit, it was pressed into action on Bataan 
peninsula and fought there until the Amer- 
ican surrender on 9 April. 20 Most of A De- 
tachment was organized from the 107th 
Infantry Regiment, which had been stationed 
in Japan since its activation in the autumn 
of 1940. 21 The 1st Amphibious Brigade was 
organized from the 2d Independent Garrison 
Unit, which had functioned as a railway 
guard in Manchuria since its activation. 22 

The arrival of these Army troops put 
considerable strain on the facilities existing 
on the islands, which had already been 
garrisoned by Navy personnel. Apparent- 
ly no provision had been made to prepare 
minor fortifications for the Army reinforce- 
ments. Thus D Day on Kwajalein found 
the members of the 1st Amphibious Brigade 
in the process of digging in with desperate 
haste. As one soldier put it: "Since land- 
ing on this island there have been no days 
off because of continuous duties and de- 
tails. Most of my time has been spent dig- 
ging trenches." 23 

Enemy air strength in the Marshalls in 
the few months before the American inva- 
sion fluctuated greatly as the Japanese 
fought a losing battle to replace their 

organization of the Third, Fifth, and Thirteenth Divi- 
sions, the Independent Mixed Brigades, the Amphibi- 
ous Brigades, and the South Seas Detachments, and 
of the 250th Return Demobilization, War Ministry 
Order, 16 Nov 43; CINGPAC-CINCPOA Translation 
9499A; CINCPAG-CINCPOA Translation 9536, Ex- 
cerpts Taken from the 31st Army Monthly Reports for 
March and April 1944, dated 30 Apr 44; JICPOA 
Translation 5545, Inner South Seas Force Secret Opn 
Order 26-43. 



mounting losses from the homeland and 
other parts of the Empire. As of January 
1944 their air installations in the area in- 
cluded, in the Kwajalein Atoll, an incom- 
pleted land base on Kwajalein Island, a 
land base on Roi, and a seaplane base on 
Burton; elsewhere in the Marshalls, land 
bases on Maloelap, Wotje, Mille, and Eni- 
wetok, and seaplane bases on Jaluit, 
Wotje, Majuro, Taongi, and Utirik. 24 
During the month of November 1943 
the Japanese lost about 71 planes in the 
Marshalls, chiefly as a result of carrier and 
land-based strikes incident to the Amer- 
ican invasion of the Gilberts. Nevertheless, 
they were able to balance almost all of 
these losses with reinforcements flown from 
the homeland and from the 3d Fleet at 
Truk. 25 The planes from Truk, 32 in num- 
ber, represented virtually all the remaining 
carrier air, and most of these fell victim to 
American attack by the end of November. 
By 25 January 1944, Roi had about 35 
planes; Kwajalein Island, about 10 recon- 
naissance planes; Maloelap, 50 planes; 
Wotje, 9; and Eniwetok, 15. 26 As Amer- 
ican aerial attacks on the Marshalls were 
stepped up in December and January, 
Japanese air strength dwindled rapidly. 

20 See Louis Morton, The Fall of the Philippines, Gh. 
XV, and passim. 

21 Military Intelligence Division, War Department, 
Order of Battle of the Japanese Armed Forces (Wash- 
ington, 1945), p. 116. 

22 JICPOA Bull 88-44, 1st Amphibious Brigade, Japa- 
nese Army, 13 Jun 44, p. 1. 

2 ! JICPOA Translation 7224, Extracts from the 
Diary of Kinichi Ijiya, entry of 25 Jan 44. 

24 JICPOA Air Target Folders 50A (1 Dec 43), 53A 
(15 Dec 43), 58A (20 Dec 43), 3A (20 Jan 44); 
JICPOA Bull 46-44, Base Installations Roi, Namur 
and Ennubirr Islands, Kwajalein Atoll, 15 Apr 44; 
CINCPAC-CINCPOA Translation 9138, Naval Air 
Headquarters: Digest of Japanese Naval Air Bases, 
Sep 43. 

25 4th Fleet War Diary, NA 1 1398, WDC 160336. 

26 USSBS, The Campaigns of the Pacific War, pp. 
201-02. 



212 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



Mille, Jaluit, and Wotje ceased to be ef- 
fective as air bases. Wotje had from 30 to 
35 planes in November, but this force was 
almost completely destroyed by two Amer- 
ican carrier strikes. By 29 January there 
were only twelve "Kates" on Wotje; that 
day six failed to return from a mission and 
the rest were evacuated to Roi. The Jap- 
anese managed to keep the air strength at 
Maloelap at 50 planes throughout Novem- 
ber and into December, but by January 
only 13 fighters were operational; 40 had 
been damaged and grounded. On 29 Jan- 
uary, the American carrier raid reported 
the destruction of 10 planes in the air, and 
all that were on the ground. By 1 February, 
the only remaining Japanese planes in the 
Marshalls proper were the few on Eniwe- 
tok. 27 Thus, by the time of the American 
invasion, the enemy's power to resist by 
aerial attack had wasted away to almost 
nothing. Complete mastery of the air, so 
essential to success in amphibious oper- 
ations, had been assured to the attackers. 

The Defenses of Kwajalein Atoll, 
January 1944 

Kwajalein Atoll had been the hub of 
Japanese military activity in the Marshalls 
since August 1941. As headquarters of the 
6th Base Force, it was the nerve center of the 
surrounding bases. Reinforcements com- 
ing into the Marshalls almost invariably 
passed through Kwajalein, to be parceled 
out from there. Supplies were usually dis- 
tributed from this atoll, which was the 
closest major base to Truk and to the sup- 
ply lines from the homeland. Branches of 
various departments of the 4th Fleet were 
located there to supervise supply, trans- 
portation, and the more technical aspects 
of construction. Kwajalein was the center 
of communications not only for all other 
bases in the Marshalls, but for the Gil- 



berts, Nauru, and Ocean as well. The air 
base on Roi commanded all Japanese air 
forces in the Marshalls and Gilberts. All 
this gave Kwajalein some of the character- 
istics of a rear area, with more red tape 
than bullets, far from the front-line out- 
posts on the periphery of the Marshalls. As 
a matter of fact, an American amphibious 
landing on Kwajalein was discounted by 
most Japanese as only a remote possibility, 
and it was fortified accordingly. As one 
Japanese naval commander put it, speak- 
ing of the Japanese estimate of American 
intentions after the Gilberts campaign: 
"There was divided opinion as to whether 
you would land at Jaluit or Mille. Some 
thought you would land on Wotje but 
there were few who thought you would go 
right to the heart of the Marshalls and 
take Kwajalein." 28 

Japanese island defense doctrine in the 
campaigns in the Gilberts and Marshalls 
stressed defense at the beaches. Every at- 
tempt was to be made to annihilate the 
enemy before he could get ashore, and if 
he did reach the beaches, the defenders 
were to counterattack before he could con- 
solidate his positions. Since it was assumed 
that the enemy might be destroyed at the 
beaches, the island defenses were strung in 
a thin line along the shores, with little or 
no defense in depth. This doctrine was the 
product of the offensive character of Japa- 
nese military thought in general, and also 
was influenced by the geography of coral 
atolls, which were composed chiefly of 
thin flat islands surrounding a lagoon. 
Most of the islands had very little depth 
to defend, and the occasional wider islands 

27 USSBS, The American Campaign Against Wotje, 
Maloelap, Mille and Jaluit, pp. 35-36. 

28 USSBS, Naval Analysis Division, Interrogations of 
Japanese Officials (Washington, 1946), Vol. I, Interro- 
gation of Comdr Chikataka Nakajima, IJN, pp. 
143-44. 



JAPANESE DEFENSES IN THE MARSHALLS 



213 



or wider sections of islands were usually 
occupied by airstrips. Later, on Iwo Jima, 
which was larger than most coral islands, 
the American attack encountered pre- 
pared defenses in depth. Later still, on 
Okinawa, the Japanese abandoned com- 
pletely the concept of shore defense and re- 
tired to prepare defenses some distance 
away from the landing beaches. This 
change in Japanese island defense doctrine 
came about as a result both of experience 
and of the recognition of geographic real- 
ities. 29 But at the time of the Marshalls in- 
vasion, Japanese tactical doctrine still 
stressed beach-line defense to the neglect 
of defense in depth. 30 

Originally the plan for defending the 
atoll had been based on the assumption 
that the attack would come from the sea. 
After the experience at Tarawa, the Japa- 
nese appear to have changed their minds 
about American intentions and shifted 
their emphasis from defending the ocean 
shores to defending the lagoon beaches of 
the islands. Gun positions were set up 
along the lagoon, trenches dug, and anti- 
tank obstructions erected to prevent or 
delay a landing over these beaches. 31 

The three most heavily defended islands 
of the atoll were Roi-Namur, Kwajalein, 
and Ebeye (Burton), in that order of 
strength. 32 Roi-Namur was somewhat bet- 
ter fortified than Kwajalein Island, but 
neither approached Tarawa as to the size 
and number of weapons or the construc- 
tion and concentration of positions. These 
northern islands contained four 12.7-cm. 
twin-mount dual-purpose guns that were 
divided into two batteries of two, one lo- 
cated near the northwest corner of Roi and 
the other on the northernmost tip of 
Namur. (See Map VII.) Four 37-mm. gun 
positions were established. One was lo- 
cated on the west shore of Roi near the 



southwest tip of the island, another near 
the northeastern corner of Roi; the other 
two were on the southeastern tip and in 
the center of the east coast of Namur. 
Nineteen 13.2-mm. single-mount dual- 
purpose guns were located in strong points 
mostly along the ocean shores, from the 
east coast of Namur to the west coast of 
Roi. Ten 20-mm. antiaircraft guns were 
emplaced, most of them along the shore 
line and near the airfield taxi circles on 
Roi; three were part of the strong point on 
the northwest tip of Namur and one was 
located on the south shore of that island. 
Machine guns were emplaced in concrete 
pillboxes, although many of the light ma- 
chine guns were not permanently em- 
placed, but shifted from position to posi- 
tion as the battle demanded. The many 
rifle pits and fire trenches were located in 
the beach areas of both islands. There were 
three concrete blockhouses on Roi. One 
was located on the southwest tip, one in 
the northwest corner, and one in the 
northeast corner. Another was in the cen- 
ter of the east shore of Namur. The block- 
houses were all located in strong point 
areas, housed 13-mm. machine guns, and 
were probably used as command posts. 

The reefs off Roi-Namur were not 
mined, and very few antipersonnel mines 

29 War Department Technical Manual E 30-480, 
Handbook on Japanese Military Forces, 1 Jun 45, Ch. 
VII, Part III, pp. 64-68; Roy E. Appleman, James 
M. Burns, Russell A. Gugeler, and John Stevens, Oki- 
nawa: The Last Battle, UNITED STATES ARMY IN 
WORLD WAR II (Washington, 1948), Ch. IV. 

i0 JICPOA Bull 48-44, Japanese Defenses, Kwaja- 
lein Atoll, 10 Apr 44, p. 1. 

:tl War Department Mission, Marshall Islands, Jap- 
anese Defenses and Battle Damage, 14 Mar 44, p. 10; 
Japanese Studies in World War II, No. 73, Marshall 
Islands Operations, pp. 34-36, OCMH. 

12 The following detailed description of enemy de- 
fenses on Kwajalein Atoll is derived, unless otherwise 
indicated, from JICPOA Bull 48-44, Japanese De- 
fenses, Kwajalein Atoll, 10 Apr 44. 



214 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



were encountered inland. Wire entangle- 
ments were found at two points — on the 
beach around the northeast taxi circle on 
Roi, and on the narrow bit of land con- 
necting Roi with Namur. The beach 
around the northeast taxi circle also 
boasted a tank obstacle in the form of large 
rocks jutting out of a rock wall. Antitank 
ditches had been dug throughout the two 
islands. 

The defenses of Roi-Namur were quite 
clearly organized around a series of seven 
strong points, four on Roi and three on 
Namur, all on the ocean side. Starting 
from the southwest tip of Roi, the first was 
located along the southern shore of the 
west coast. The second and third were to 
the south and north of the northwest taxi 
circle. The fourth was on both sides of the 
wire and stone barriers next to the north- 
east taxi circle. The fifth, sixth, and sev- 
enth were on the northwest, north, and east 
tips of Namur, respectively. From the 
lagoon side the approaches were covered 
mostly by nothing heavier than 7.7-mm. 
machine guns. 33 

Kwajalein Island was less well fortified. 
A study of enemy defenses, made there by 
the engineering officer of V Amphibious 
Corps after the operation was concluded, 
stated, "The prepared defenses of this is- 
land were surprisingly weak. . . ." 34 

On Kwajalein, four 12.7-cm. dual-pur- 
pose twin-mount guns were divided into 
batteries of t wo, one lo cated at each end 
of the island. (Map V) Each battery was 
protected by 7.7-mm. and 13-mm. ma- 
chine guns along the nearby beaches. Near 
each gun were two 150-cm. searchlights. 
In addition, the northern end of the island 
was guarded by a twin-mount dual-pur- 
pose 13-mm. machine gun on the lagoon 
shore. Several 7.7-mm. machine guns were 
in position on the western end and other 
heavy machine guns were scattered about 



the center of the island, some mounted on 
wooden sleds for easy movement to critical 
points. 

On the ocean shore were six 8-cm. dual- 
purpose guns, divided into two batteries of 
three guns each. One battery was east of 
the tank ditch and the other was opposite 
the center of the airfield. The first had a 
360-degree traverse and could fire either 
to seaward or landward. The other formed 
the nucleus of a strong point composed of 
a semicircle of rifle pits facing the beach 
supported by one heavy and one 13-mm. 
machine gun, and also included an obser- 
vation tower, a range finder, and a 1 10-cm. 
searchlight. 

Two other 8-cm. guns were in position 
on the lagoon shore, and the blockhouse 
on the main pier (Nob Pier), which jutted 
out into the lagoon near the northern tip of 
the island, had a 13-mm. dual-purpose 
gun on its roof and firing ports on the 
ground floor allowing machine guns to fire 
in all directions. 

Other sheltered positions included about 
forty reinforced concrete pillboxes on the 
beaches of the ocean shore and at the 
northern and western ends of the island, 
and about twelve U-shaped standing pits. 
Fire trenches encircled the island, just in- 
land from the beach. At intervals along 
the ocean shore were squad positions with 
ten to fifteen rifle pits each. These were 
usually arranged in a semicircle facing the 
beach and were camouflaged with grass. 

There was a concrete sea wall along 
most of the ocean shore and around the 
northern and western ends of the island. 
The section at the northern end had posts 
set into it, probably to act as a tank barri- 
cade. East of the area cleared for the air- 



3:1 See JICPOA Bull 48-44, Map 4. 

■ H Ltr Rpt, Kwajalein Atoll, Study and Report of 
Japanese Defenses by Engineers, V Phib Corps, 15 
Feb 44, p. 1. 



JAPANESE DEFENSES IN THE MARSHALLS 215 
Table 2 — Japanese Strength in Southern Kwajalein Atoll on D Day 



Unit 



Total 

Army troops 

6th Base Force headquarters 

61st Guard Force (main body) 

SNLF attached to 6th Base Force headquarters . . . . 

Casuals 

4th Fleet Construction Department Detachment 

Sankyu Transportation Company 

952d Air Unit 

6th Communications Unit 

6th Submarine Base Force 

Other 4th Fleet detached personnel and naval stragglers 



Number 



about 5, 000 



933 
250 
557 
250 
250 
1,400 
260 
160 
350 
105 



» Unknown. 

Source: JICPOA Bull 88-44, 1st Amphibious Brigade, Japanese Army, 13 Jun 44; JICPOA Bull 89-44, Japanese Defense of Eniwetok 
Atoll, 12 Jun 44; CINCPAC-CINCPOA Bull 11-45, Japanese Naval Ground Forces, 15 Jan 45; JICPOA Translation 3998, 6th Base Force 
Secret Directive 104-43; Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. Ill, pp. 54-55; JICPOA Translation 7354, Personnel Figures of the Fourth Con- 
struction Unit; JICPOA Preliminary POW Interrogation Reports 42, Interrogation of Shoan Gishifu, 43, Interrogation of Toshio Nabata, 
Sic, 952d Air Group, 48, Interrogation of Katsuhide Okueno, Superior Seaman, Kwajalein SS Base. 



field was a tank ditch extending halfway 
across the island, and three smaller tank 
ditches ran between the ocean shore and 
the road in the vicinity of the airfield. The 
lagoon shore was protected by a two-strand 
barbed-wire fence at the water's edge. The 
large tank ditch was supported by trenches, 
rifle pits, and machine guns. 

The fortifications on Burton were much 
lighter than those on Kwajalein, mostly 
machine g un positions and rifle pits. (See 
Map 14.) These were organized at the 
beaches with a concentration of dual-pur- 
pose machine guns grouped around the 
seaplane base in the lagoon. At the base 
of the south seaplane ramp was a 20-mm. 
antiaircraft machine gun. Near it, and 
between the two seaplane ramps, were two 
1 3-mm. single-mount machine guns, three 
7.7-mm. machine guns, and a concrete pill- 
box. Two 8-cm. dual-purpose guns were 
located on the ocean shore. The large 
number of empty machine gun emplace- 



ments would seem to indicate that the 
defenses of the island had not been com- 
pleted at the time of the invasion. The few 
pillboxes found in the vicinity of the sea- 
plane base were small, reinforced concrete 
shelters, each with two firing ports facing 
seaward. Most of the fire trenches and rifle 
pits were on the ocean side at the center of 
the island and at the north and south ends 
of the island. 

The total number of Japanese on Kwaja- 
lein, Burton, and other islands in the south- 
ern part of the atoll on D Day came to 
about 5,000 men. (Table 2) 

The Army troops on Kwajalein con- 
sisted of the Kwajalein and part of the 
Wotje detachment of the 1st Amphibious 
Brigade. The Kwajalein detachment, under 
a Capt. Kenzo Tsuyuki, numbered 204 
men and consisted of one rifle company 
and one mortar platoon. The 729 men of 
the Wotje detachment had arrived on 
Kwajalein about 10 January 1944 and 



216 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



were awaiting transportation to their as- 
signed location when the invasion began. 
They were commanded by a Col. Tarok- 
ichi Aso and comprised the 2d Battalion 
(less the 1st and 3d Companies), three signal 
squads, and an engineer platoon. 35 

The 6th Base Force headquarters in Janu- 
ary of 1944 included about 80 military per- 
sonnel and somewhere in the neighborhood 
of 200 civilians. 36 This unit, the head- 
quarters for all shore and surface forces in 
the Marshalls, was commanded by Rear 
Adm. Monzo Akiyama, IJN, who was the 
highest-ranking officer in the Kwajalein 
garrison at the time of the American as- 
sault. Under the 6th Base Force was the 61st 
Guard Force, which since before Pearl Har- 
bor had borne the chief responsibility for 
defending the atoll. The main body of this 
force was stationed in Kwajalein Island 
and a detached force was on Roi. The main 
body was divided into two small battalions, 
four antiaircraft batteries, and six lookout 
stations, of which three were on Kwaja- 
lein and one each on Bigej (Bennett), Gea 
(Carter), and Ennylabegan (Carlos). 37 Also 
attached to the 6th Base Force was one com- 
pany of about 250 men from the Yokosuka 
4th Special Naval Landing Force, which ar- 
rived in Kwajalein in October 1942. 38 

The labor troops on Kwajalein and ad- 
jacent islands were engaged in the con- 
struction of the airfield on Kwajalein and 
other projects. Fourteen hundred of these 
were provided by the 4th Fleet Construction 
Department Detachment and were either Ko- 
reans or Japanese unfit for ordinary mili- 
tary duties. Their combat effectiveness was 
probably close to nil. Another 260 laborers, 
from Okinawa, were provided by the 
Sankyu Transportation Company, which 
was a purely civilian organization. These 
were used as stevedores and are not con- 
sidered combat effectives. 

The three remaining military units in 



the area were the 952 d Air Unit, the 6th 
Communications Unit, and the 6th Submarine 
Base Force. The air unit, consisting of about 
160 men, was stationed on Burton, and 
when the invasion began the duty of de- 
fending the island fell to that unit. Since 
there were only enough rifles for about half 
the men and not even one hand grenade 
apiece, their combat effectiveness cannot be 
regarded as very important. The 6th Com- 
munications Unit handled communications 
command, code and voice signal, code sig- 
nal dispatch and reception, and the radio 
direction finder equipment on Kwajalein 
and Enubuj (Carlson). No information is 
available as to the combat potential of this 
group of 350 men, but it was probably 
slight. 39 The 6th Submarine Base Force, con- 
sisting of about a hundred electricians, 
mechanics, seamen, doctors, corpsmen, 
and maintenance men, had some weapons 
including thirteen machine guns and sixty 
rifles, but the force was established chiefly 
for the purpose of providing a rest and 
recreational depot for submarine crews 
and is not to be regarded as a combat 
unit. 40 

All together, of the enemy personnel in 
southern Kwajalein, only about 1,820 
could be considered combat effectives at 
the time of the invasion. The remainder 
can be classified as o nly partial ly effective 



or not effective at all. {Table 3) 



35 JICPOA Bull 88-44, 1st Amphibious Brigade, Japa- 
nese Army, 13 Jun 44, pp. 6-7. 

;w Answers Received by a Representative of Capt. 
Samuel Eliot Morison, USNR, from Japanese Naval 
Oncers, Tokyo, 1946, MSS on file at Office of Naval 
History. 

37 61st Guard Force War Di?ry, NA 12147. 

38 Special Landing Forces, Early Series, Vol. 8, NA 
11647, WDC 160871 (2). 

39 6th Base Force War Diary, NA 12654, WDC 
160599; CINCPAC-CINCPOA Special Translation 
51, Japanese Land-Based Communications Units, 
p. 18. 

40 JICPOA Preliminary Interrogation Rpt 48, In- 
terrogation of Katsuhide Okueno. 



JAPANESE DEFENSES IN THE MARSHALLS 



217 



Table 3 — Combat Effectiveness of Japanese in Southern Kwajalein Atoll 

on D Day 



Unit 


Effective 


Partially 
Effective 


Not Effective 


Total 


1, 820 


865 plus 


1,830 




933 










80 





170 




557 










250 













250 













1,400 










260 


952d Air Unit 





160 










350 










105 










a 






» Unknown. 

Source: See sources for Table 2. 



Roi-Namur and the other islands of 
northern Kwajalein, although somewhat 
more elaborately fortified than the south- 
ern islands, had fewer people on hand to 
resist the invasion. Actual figures for north- 
ern Kwajalein are harder to come by than 
those for the southern part of the atoll. A 
postbattle count of enemy killed and pris- 
oners taken would indicate that on the 
northern islands there were 3,563 enemy, 
including Korean laborers. 41 No complete 
breakdown is available, but Table 4 rep- 
resents the best possible estimate from 
known sources. 

The 61st Guard Force Dispatched Force had 
been on Roi since before Pearl Harbor and 
constituted the main body of combat 
troops. It was responsible for operating 
most of the weapons on Roi-Namur above 
the small arms category. It was probably 
under the tactical if not the administrative 
control of Headquarters 24th Air Force, and 
itself exercised tactical command over all 
or part of the 4th Fleet laborers. 42 

The 24th Air Force headquarters com- 



manded all air units in the Marshalls 
except the 952d at Burton, which was con- 
trolled by the 6th Base Force. 43 This head- 
quarters was commanded by Rear Adm. 
Michiyuki Yamada, who was responsible 
to 4th Fleet headquarters at Truk and who 
was the highest-ranking officer at Roi. 44 
On 25 January there were two medium 
bomber units, one with twelve land-based 
planes and one with three, and a fighter 
unit of twenty planes under this headquar- 
ters command. 45 

As to the combat effectiveness of these 
people, it is difficult to hazard anything 
more than a guess since the extent of mili- 



41 V Phib Corps Flintlock Rpt, Incl D, G-2 Rpt, 
P . 12. 

42 61st Guard Force War Diary, NA 12147. 

^ 6th Base Force War Diary, NA 12654, WDC 
160599. 

14 CINCPAC-CINCPOA Bull 43-45, Register of 
Japanese Naval Officers, Parts I and II, 20 Feb 45; 
CINCPAC-CINCPOA Bull 90-45, Command and 
Staff List, Japanese Navy, 17 Apr 45. 

43 CINCPAC-CINCPOA Bull 16-45, Japanese Na- 
val Air Organization, 22 Jan 45. 



218 SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSH ALLS 

Table 4 — Japanese Strength in Northern Kwajalein Atoll on D Day 



Unit 



Total 

61st Guard Force Dispatched Force 

Air Force personnel 

24th Air Force headquarters 

Other air units a 

4th Fleet Construction Department Detachment 
Other units b 



Number 



2,852 plus 



345 

150 
2,000 
357 



» 281st, 275th, and 753d Air Units. 

b Attached Special Landing Force, communications personnel, and naval stragglers. 
Unknown. 

Source: JICPOA Bull 48-44, Japanese Defenses, Kwajalein Atoll, 10 Apr 44, Map 3; Answers Received by a Representative of Capt Samuel 
Eliot Morison, USNR, from Japanese Naval Officers, Tokyo, 1946; JICPOA Translation 73S4, Personnel Figures of the Fourth Construction 
Unit. 



tary preparedness of the air force person- 
nel is not known. The best estimate would 
be that on Roi-Namur there were 345 
combat effectives of the 61st Guard Force 
Dispatched Force; 2,150 air force personnel 
partially effective as combat troops; 357 
4th Fleet laborers, ineffective; and about 
700 miscellaneous personnel including ma- 
rooned sailors whose combat effectiveness 
was probably nonexistent. 

It would appear, then, that neither Roi- 
Namur nor Kwajalein Island was a formi- 
dable island fortress in the category of 
Tarawa or, later, of Iwo Jima. The Japa- 
nese had skimped on fortifications of this 
central atoll in favor of the atolls in the 
eastern sector of the Marshalls, which they 
considered more likely to be the objects of 
attack. By D Day Japanese air power 
throughout the entire Marshalls area had 
been reduced to ineffectiveness. Man- 
power in the islands under attack was of 
limited military value. On Roi-Namur the 
bulk of the enemy consisted of air force 
personnel; on Kwajalein a large percent- 
age was labor troops. Even before Ameri- 
can naval guns and aircraft and artillery 



placed on nearby islands had completed 
their bombardment of the main defenses, 
the capacity of the Japanese to ward off the 
attack was comparatively slight. 

The invasion of Kwajalein Atoll was 
notable for the innovations in amphibious 
techniques and amphibious equipment 
used there. To these can be given much of 
the credit for the ease with which the oper- 
ation was completed, in contrast to the 
earlier landings at Tarawa. But equally or 
more notable was the fact that the strategic 
planners for the operation, especially Ad- 
miral Nimitz, correctly estimated that this 
was a weak spot in the Japanese defense of 
the Central Pacific and exploited it accord- 
ingly. The decision to bypass the eastern 
Marshalls and strike directly at Kwajalein 
was fully justified by the comparatively 
weak state of enemy defenses there. Hitting 
the enemy where he was not was impossi- 
ble in the Central Pacific, since all the 
islands and atolls of any strategic impor- 
tance were fortified. The only alternative 
was to hit him where he was least able to 
defend himself, and this was done in the 
invasion of Kwajalein Atoll. 



CHAPTER XIV 



The Invasion of Southern 
Kwajalein 



The Landings on D Day 

Occupation of Carter and Cecil Islands 

As the Southern Attack Force ap- 
proached its transport and fire support 
areas located six to ten miles southwest of 
Kwajalein, the APD's Overton and Manley 
slipped ahead in the early morning of 31 
January toward the two channel islets that 
were the first points to be seized by the in- 



vading troops. 1 (See Map 9.) Carter (Gea) 



Island lay about nine miles northwest of 
Kwajalein Island. A half mile farther, on 
the opposite side of the channel, was Cecil 
(Ninni). Each of the two APD's was carry- 
ing 155 men organized into a provisional 
unit, in part from the 7th Cavalry Recon- 
naissance Troop and in part from Com- 
pany B, 1 1 1th Infantry. Troop A, on Over- 
ton, consisted of the headquarters platoon 
of the reconnaissance troop plus sixty-one 
officers and men of the infantry company, 
all under command of Capt. Paul B. 
Gritta. In Troop B, transported on Manley 
and commanded by 1st Lt. Emmett L. 
Tiner, the 1st and 3d Platoons of the recon- 
naissance troop were supplemented by 
ninety-three infantry officers and men. 
Both units were attached for the forthcom- 
ing operation to the 17th Regimental 



Combat Team, under Col. Wayne C. 
Zimmerman. 2 

Troop A was to take Cecil Island and 
Troop B, Carter Island. The islets were 
tiny, without known defenses, and were as- 
sumed to have but small garrisons. Once 
the two islands were under control, the 
four platoons of the 7th Cavalry Recon- 
naissance Troop were to be reunited and 
taken aboard Overton to their next mission, 
which was tentatively set as the recon- 
noitering of Chauncey (Gehh) Island, 
about one mile northwest of Cecil. The in- 
fantry elements of the two provisional 
units would remain as garrison and defense 
forces on the channel islands. 3 

In the darkness of the moonless night, 
the islands could not be seen from the 
ships. The sea was running high as the 
high-speed transports, about 2,600 yards 
out, each dispatched one motor launch 
and a number of rubber boats filled with 
reconnaissance troops followed by the in- 



1 TF 51, Rpt of Opns for the Capture of the Mar- 
shall (hereafter cited as TF 51 Marshalls Rpt), Incl 
C, p. 2. 

2 7th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop, Rpt of Kwa- 
jalein Opn, 20 Feb 44 (hereafter cited as 7th Cav 
Ren Tr Rpt), p. 1; 111th Infantry Report After 
Action Against Enemy, 3 1 Jan- 1 Feb 44, 1 5 Apr 44 
(hereafter cited as 1 1 1th Inf AAR). 

3 7th Inf Div Flintlock Rpt, Vol. II, FO 1, 6 Jan 
44, Phase I, pp. 1-2; 7th Cav Ren Tr Rpt, pp. 1-2. 



220 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



fantry carried in Higgins boats. 4 The plan 
for landing on each island required that 
the rubber boats be towed by a launch to 
within 800 yards of the shore and then be 
paddled to a rendezvous halfway in. There 
they were to wait until two men went for- 
ward on an electric-powered raft, made a 
beach reconnaissance, and set up direc- 
tional lights marking the best landing spot. 
The rest of the men in the rubber boats 
were to follow them ashore and, while 
establishing a beach defense, guide the 
Higgins boats in with red lights. Leaving 
the infantry to defend the beach, the two 
reconnaissance platoons were first to oc- 
cupy the side of the island nearest the 
channel and then to reconnoiter and make 
secure the remainder of the island. 

At the outset some delay was encoun- 
tered in dispatching Troop B from Manley 
because of the difficulty in finding Carter 
Island. Then the lead boat mistook Cecil 
for Carter and by the time this confusion 
righted itself it was almost daylight. Hence, 
plans for a preliminary beach reconnais- 
sance were abandoned, and the rubber 
boats were paddled to shore at the south- 
ern end of Carter at 0620. No resistance 
was met on the beach. Defenses were set 
up and the infantry boats guided in while 
a reconnoitering patrol struck through the 
fringe of brush at the edge of the beach 
and entered the heavy tropical under- 
growth beyond. 

The patrol returned without discovering 
any enemy, and the reconnaissance pla- 
toons, with an infantry platoon providing 
flank and rear protection, pushed off 
toward an observation tower at the north- 
west corner of the island. The area around 
the tower was soon discovered to be unoc- 
cupied except for one Japanese soldier, 
who was killed. The first reconnaissance 
platoon then turned around to comb back 



down the island again, concentrating this 
time on the ocean side. As the skirmish 
line pushed back into the tangle of under- 
growth again, it was suddenly taken under 
fire from Japanese concealed in a shell 
crater and surrounding trees. The platoon 
leader, 2d Lt. Claude V. Hornbacher, 
ordered a machine gun set up in the 
crotch of a tree, and with it in position a 
covering fire was laid down on the whole 
area. Under protection of this fire, Sgt. 
Leonard C. Brink took personal charge of 
the situation. In ten or fifteen minutes he 
hurled grenade after grenade into the 
crater while the machine gun fired over 
his head. The Japanese replied in kind. 
Finally, after enemy resistance seemed to 
have dwindled, Sergeant Brink and other 
members of the platoon crawled forward 
and jumped into the hole with knives and 
bayonets. Within seconds the skirmish was 
over and nineteen Japanese soldiers were 
dead at the cost of one American wounded. 
The island again fell silent. A few more 
Japanese were flushed from their hiding 
places near the ocean shore, and by 0930 
the capture of Carter Island was com- 
pleted. 

Intelligence materials were gathered up 
and sent to Admiral Turner's flagship, 
Rocky Mount, and at 1000 responsibility for 
controlling the island was transferred to 
the infantry elements. The southeast side 
of the channel was secured. 

At the same time that Troop B was seiz- 
ing Carter, Troop A was engaged in a 
parallel mission. At 0430 Troop A started 
from Overton toward what was supposed to 
be Cecil Island. The craft moved against 
a strong current and an offshore wind. 

4 7th Cav Ren Tr Rpt, p. 2. Unless otherwise in- 
dicated, the account of the action on Chauncey, Car- 
ter, and Cecil Islands is drawn from this report or 
that of the 1 1 1th Infantry. 



THE INVASION OF SOUTHERN KWAJALEIN 



221 



Although the rubber boats were cast loose 
too soon and had to be rounded up and 
again taken in tow until brought within 
paddling distance of the shore, they made 
an unopposed landing at 0545, thirty-five 
minutes earlier than Troop B's on Carter. 
Guide lights were placed and the infantry's 
landing craft came in just at daybreak, 
while the beachhead defense was being 
established. 

After a brief reconnaissance during 
which four enemy were killed and two 
captured, Captain Gritta, commanding 
Troop A, came to the conclusion that he 
was on the wrong island. He suspected 
that his party had been landed at Chaun- 
cey, the small island next northwest of 
Cecil. This was confirmed by General 
Corlett, who at 0810 ordered Troop A to 
"forget about Chauncey; proceed on regu- 
lar mission." 5 

Leaving a small party of infantrymen to 
stand guard over a Japanese tugboat 
stranded near the beach, Captain Gritta 
embarked the remainder of his troop in 
rubber boats and proceeded along the reef 
to Cecil. That island was found to be un- 
occupied and by 1235 was reported se- 
cured. 6 The pass into the lagoon could now 
be swept in preparation for the entry of 
ships to provide fire support for the land- 
ings planned the next day. 

Back on Chauncey, Capt. Gilbert 
Drexel and his men of Company B, 1 1 1th 
Infantry, kept the stranded tugboat under 
surveillance and started to comb the woods 
and underbrush thoroughly. An enemy 
force estimated at 100, which had escaped 
the initial reconnaissance, engaged the in- 
fantry near the center of the island. 7 Others 
appeared on the tugboat, fired on strafing 
planes and on the American detail left to 
guard the tugboat, and were in turn taken 
under fire by Overton. Under orders to 



move to Cecil, the company broke off the 
engagement in the woods, which had cost 
them two deaths in return for an estimated 
forty-five enemy killed. The infantrymen 
set up a defensive perimeter for the night 
and waited for boats to transfer them to 
Cecil the following day. Chauncey was 
left for a later date to be cleared of the re- 
maining enemy on it. Only one squad of 
infantrymen reinforced by members of 
Overton's crew were left to guard the 
stranded tug. On 1 February they were 
reinforced by a platoon and ordered to set 
up a perimeter defense at the beach until 
more troops could be landed to clean out 
the remnant of Japanese still on the island. 8 

Carlson and Carlos 

The seizure of Carlson and Carlos Is- 
lands on D Day was assigned to the 1 7th 
Regimental Combat Team. Carlson was to 
be used for the emplacement of divisional 
artillery and Carlos for supply dumps and 
repair stations. The capture of Carlson was 
considered the most important D-Day mis- 
sion for the Southern Landing Force be- 
cause of its proximity to Kwajalein Island 
and its importance as a site for the forty- 
eight 105-mm. and twelve 155-mm. how- 
itzers that were to provide artillery support 
for the main landing the next day. 

Carlos and Carlson Islands extended 
along the reef northwest of Kwajalein. 9 
Both islands were long and narrow. Carl- 
son was about two-thirds of a mile in 
length and under 300 yards in width; 
Carlos about a mile long and 300 yards 

5 7th Inf Div Flintlock Rpt, Vol. VI, G-3 Jnl, 3 1 
Jan 44, Msgs 22a, 23; Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, 
Vol. II, pp. 20-21. 

6 7th Inf Div G-3 Jnl, 31 Jan 44, Msg 90. 

7 11 1th Inf AAR, p. 3. 

8 7th Cav Ren Tr Rpt, p. 6. 

9 7th Inf Div FO 1, Annex 3, App 4, p. 9. 



222 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



wide. Between the two lay a gap of ap- 
proximately 4,300 yards, but the water 
over the connecting reef was never deep 
enough to float even small boats. Recon- 
naissance nights had revealed on Carlson 
the presence of radio towers and other in- 
stallations including a 100-yard finger 
pier on the lagoon side. It was estimated 
that a force of from 250 to 300 was sta- 
tioned on the island to defend it and main- 
tain defense communications there. Carlos 
Island, it was believed, would contain a 
much smaller garrison, if any. 10 

The 17th Regimental Combat Team's 
plan called for simultaneous attacks of bat- 
talion strength on the northwestern tip of 
each island. 11 The 1st Battalion, Lt. Col. 
Albert V. Hartl commanding, was to at- 
tack Carlos; the 2d Battalion, commanded 
by Lt. Col. Edward P. Smith and sup- 
ported by one platoon of Company A, 
708th Amphibian Tank Battalion, was to 
land on Carlson. The 3d Battalion, Lt. Col. 
Lee Wallace commanding, was to remain 
afloat in landing craft at the line of de- 
parture and be available for either island 
as needed. Two light tanks were designated 
for the fourth wave of those landing on 
Carlos and four were allocated to the 
fourth landing wave for Carlson. The 
tanks were provided by Company D, 
767th Tank Battalion. Company C of the 
tank battalion was to stand by to provide 
support missions if called on. 

The transports carrying the three bat- 
talion landing teams arrived in the trans- 
port area six miles to seaward of Carlson 
at 0544 on 31 January. 12 Five LST's carry- 
ing four amphibian tractor groups had 
already arrived in an assigned area west- 
ward from Carlos Island, and on order 
they moved through the pitch darkness to 
the transport area to take aboard the as- 
sault troops of the first four waves. The 



men were to disembark from the trans- 
ports into Higgins boats, move about 600 
yards to their assigned LST's, and then 
distribute themselves among the amphib- 
ian tractors at the rate of fifteen men per 
vehicle. On order, the LST's were then to 
move close in to the line of departure and 
disgorge their amphibian tractors through 
their open bow doors. 

This complicated maneuver, carried out 
as it was in total darkness, inevitably re- 
sulted in confusion. The LST's were un- 
able to find the transports until the latter 
turned on identification lights. This caused 
delay and Admiral Turner found it neces- 
sary to postpone H Hour from 0830 to 
0910. 13 

As the LST's left the transport area, one 
pair carried the LVT group taking the 1st 
Battalion to Carlos, and another pair car- 
ried the LVT group conveying the 2d to 
Carlson. Other craft followed, including 
six tank lighters, twelve LCI(G)'s equipped 
with 40-mm. guns and rockets, and an 
additional LST carrying the fifteen am- 
phibian tanks of Company A, 708th Am- 
phibious Tank Battalion. 14 

Preparatory naval bombardment 
opened at 0618 when Pennsylvania and 
Mississippi commenced firing on the west- 
ern end of Kwajalein Island. As daylight 
revealed three enemy merchant ships in 
the lagoon, these also received fire from 
the destroyer Ringgold and the cruiser San 
Francisco. In spite of squally showers and a 
low ceiling, the first of the carrier planes 

10 7th Inf Div Flintlock Rpt, Vol. II, FO 2, 6 Jan 
44, pp. 1-4. 

11 Ibid., Vol. VIII, RCT 17 FO 1, 17 Jan 44, p. 2. 

12 TF 51 Marshalls Rpt, Incl A, p. 2: 7th Inf Div 
Flintlock Rpt, Vol. VIII, RCT 17 Rpt of Opns, 15 
Feb 44 (hereafter cited as RCT 1 7 Rpt), pp. 3, 63, 64; 
767th Tk Bn Flintlock Rpt, pp. 84-85. 

13 7th Inf Div G-3Jnl, 31 Jan 44, Msg 14. 

14 LST 224 Action Rpt Kwajalein, 8 Feb 44; 767th 
Tk Bnjnl, 3 1 Jan 44, p. 3. 



THE INVASION OF SOUTHERN KWAJALEIN 



223 



reported on station at 0840 to commence 
the first of many strafing and bombing 
runs on Kwajalein Island. 15 Observation 
planes later spotted fire for the battleships 
and cruisers. At 0810 the scheduled plotted 
bombardment began with shells from four 
battleships (New Mexico, Mississippi, Idaho, 
and Pennsylvania), three cruisers (Minne- 
apolis, San Francisco, and New Orleans ) and 
four destroyers (Stevens, McKee, Ringgold, 
and Sigsbee ) systematically striking Carlos, 
Carlson, Kwajalein, Burton, and Beverly 
Islands. 16 

The line of departure for the landing on 
Carlos lay about 3,000 yards west of the 
island's northwestern tip, Harvey Point. 
The plan called for the first four waves of 
the 1st Battalion Landing Team to start for 
the shore in thirty-two LVT's manned by 
seven officers and 140 enlisted men. Each 
of the first two waves was to consist of eight 
amphtracks in staggered rows of four, the 
two waves to be spaced three minutes 
apart. The third wave was to contain five 
armored LVT's in the first row and four in 
the second. Wave four consisted of more 
LVT's in a similar formation; wave five, 
LCM's carrying tanks and self-propelled 
mounts (75-mm. howitzers); and wave six, 
standard landing craft carrying one heavy 
machine gun platoon, battalion headquar- 
ters elements, advance personnel of the 
battalion aid station, and a squad of engi- 
neers. 17 

The ship-to-shore movement proceeded 
in general according to plan, and the first 
troops, two infantry platoons and part of 
the 1st Platoon, Company A, 13th Engi- 
neers, reached shore at 0910. They came 
into a wide, shallow cove near the north- 
western end of the island, which seemed 
wild and uninhabited. On the left, on 
Harvey Point, and to the right, tall palms 
could be seen in small groves, but waist- 



high underbrush interspersed with small 
patches of bare sand extended across the 
island directly back of the beachhead line. 
Vegetation had been only slightly dis- 
turbed by the preliminary bombardment. 
Behind the first two waves of infantrymen 
were landed a platoon of heavy machine 
guns, the communications section of the 
beach and shore parties, forward observers 
for the mortars, advance elements of the 
Signal Corps detachment, infantry re- 
serves, light tanks, self-propelled mounts, 
battalion headquarters elements, and 
medical personnel. By 1040, the first five 
waves were ashore. The landings were 
unopposed. 18 

The occupation of Carlos was easily ac- 
complished. Company A, which landed on 
the right, pushed southward along the 
ocean side of the island; Company C, on 
the left, made its way across to the lagoon 
side and then proceeded in a southerly di- 
rection. Near the pier on the lagoon shore, 
men of Company C encountered their first 
enemy — three unarmed Japanese, whom 
they promptly killed. Five others in this 
area were found to have committed sui- 
cide. Company A captured seven or eight 
prisoners in their southward march. When 
the front had advanced two thirds of the 
way down the island, Company C halted 
and Company A took over the entire line. 
About two hundred yards from the south- 
ern point of the island, Company A met a 
group of nine Japanese, who were cut 
down by rifle fire as they tried to rush the 
Americans. The southern point of the 

15 TF 51 Marshalls Rpt, pp. 32-33 and Incl E, 
App 2, p. 1. 

16 Ibid., Incl E, App 2, p. 1. 

17 7th Inf Div FO 1, Annex 8; Marshall, Kwajalein 
Notes, Vol. II, p. 1 2; RCT 1 7 Rpt, Jnl, 3 1 Jan 44, 
Msgs 31, 37. 

18 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. II, p. 12; RCT 
17 Jnl, 31 Jan 44, Msgs 31, 37. 



224 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 




LANDING ON CARLSON ISLAND. Note DUKW (right center) equipped with 
A -frame device. 



island was reached by 1400. The force 
found an observation tower and sheds 
with a radio in working order. At 1615 the 
1st Battalion reported the island secured. 
No casualties were reported. No prepared 
defenses had been found. 19 

Resistance on Carlson Island was ex- 
pected to be considerably stronger than 
that on Carlos or any of the other islands 
occupied on D Day. 20 The first four assault 
waves of the 2d Battalion Landing Team 
were carried ashore in amphibian tractors. 
The later waves approached the reef in 
LCVP's from which they were obliged to 
wade in for the last seventy-five yards. The 
wave formations were similar to those at 
Carlos, and the support from destroyers 
and LCI(G)'s was the same. 

The first wave hit the sandy beach at 



the northwestern corner of Carlson at 
0912. The beach was about 300 yards wide 
with a treeless sandspit at the left and a 
thin growth of coconut palms behind a 
shoulder in the coast line at the right. The 
amphibians crawled up the beach, meet- 
ing no resistance. Company E came in on 
the left and Company F on the right, while 
Company G was kept in floating reserve, 
prepared to land at a point near the mid- 
dle of the island if the tactical situation so 
required. In the first wave with the rifle 
squads were rocket grenadiers, demolition 
engineers, flame thrower operators, and 
wire-cutting specialists, all of the 13th 



19 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. II, p. 14; RCT 
17 Rpt, S-2 Worksheets, p. 133. 

20 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. II, pp. 14-15; 
RCT 17 Rpt, pp. 4, 137-39. 



THE INVASION OF SOUTHERN KWAJALEIN 



225 



Engineers. The second wave landed at 
0920, and the third was ashore ten minutes 
later. LCI gunboats continued their fire 
until the third wave had landed. Carrier 
planes strafed and bombed the island, 
moving to the southeastern extremity by 
0938. 

Company F on the right pushed straight 
across the island to the lagoon, and at 
0941 swung southeastward for the push 
along the length of the island. Company 
E on the left mopped up the northern end 
before starting down the ocean side, some- 
what behind Company F. At 0958 enemy 
artillery fire from Kwajalein was reported, 
but by 1 120 naval gunfire and an air at- 
tack had put a stop to all Japanese shell- 
ing from that quarter. 21 

Meanwhile, a section of the shore party 
in two amphibian tractors had reconnoi- 
tered the reef during the initial landings 
and selected a route ashore for the four 
light tanks and four self-propelled 75-mm. 
howitzers, which came in by 1010. 22 The 
tanks disembarked from their LCM's on 
the reef and made their way to the shore, 
minus one vehicle that broke its final drive 
and remained incapacitated for the rest of 
the operation. Once ashore, the tanks 
found passage through the thick under- 
brush and coral extremely difficult and a 
second tank was temporarily disabled. 23 

The infantrymen accompanied by com- 
bat engineers continued southeastward 
toward the communications center, which 
was almost in the middle of the island, 
arriving there at 1 105. 24 The preliminary 
bombardment had knocked down one 
radio tower and weakened another as well 
as smashing the major buildings, even 
those constructed of reinforced concrete. 
The enemy fled, offering no resistance as 
Company F searched the area. Company 
E on the ocean side discovered three sets of 



dummy emplacements but only light 
enemy resistance. Small arms fire fell 
briefly among the infantrymen as the two 
companies moved in line abreast south- 
eastward from the radio tower. Only one 
man was wounded, however. No further 
opposition was met. By noon the south- 
eastern tip of the island was reached, and 
at 1210 the battalion reported the island 
secured. Twenty-one Korean prisoners 
were captured. No live Japanese were 
found on the island, although the battalion 
commander reported, somewhat ambigu- 
ously, that "it is believed that some of the 
Koreans were part Japanese." 25 

Development of Positions 

The unexpected ease with which Carl- 
son was occupied led to an early landing of 
the divisional artillery — even before the 
island was officially declared secured. At 
1 125 General Corlett sent orders to the 7th 
Division artillery group to begin getting its 
pieces ashore. 26 This group, commanded 
by General Arnold, consisted of four bat- 
talions of 105-mm. howitzers (31st, 48th, 
49th, and 57th Field Artillery), and one 
battalion of 155-mm. howitzers (145th 
Field Artillery), plus headquarters, medi- 
cal, communications, and special troops. 
The 105-mm. howitzer battalions were 
loaded mostly on LST's. The 145th Field 
Artillery with its 155-mm. pieces had to be 
loaded on two larger transports — the AKA 
Virgo and the APA President Polk. Liaison 
and forward observation parties were on 

21 RCT 17 Jnl, 31 Jan 44, Msgs 15, 23, 24, 26. 

22 767th Tk Bn Jnl, 31 Jan 44, p. 3; RCT 17 Rpt, 
p. 4. 

23 Lt Paul R. Leach, Tanks on Kwajalein Atoll, 
MS, p. 7, OCMH. 

24 Ibid. 

25 Ibid., p. 4. 

26 7th Inf Div G-3 Jnl, 31 Jan 44, Msgs 67, 72. 



THE INVASION OF SOUTHERN KWAJALEIN 



227 



the transports with the infantry to which 
they were attached; the five air observers 
were on three cruisers of the attack force; 
and the division artillery command party 
was on Rocky Mount with General Corlett. 27 

The 155-mm. howitzers with their trac- 
tors, equipment, and ammunition were 
loaded onto LCM's. These craft grounded 
in three feet of water offshore but the how- 
itzers were hauled to the beach and 
dragged to their designated areas, where 
some were ready for registration fire by 
1525. However, the last were not emplaced 
until long after dark. 28 

The 105-mm. howitzers were, on the 
other hand, more expeditiously unloaded. 
Their DUKW's moved with relative ease 
from their mother LST's about 1 ,000 yards 
offshore to the positions where the batteries 
were to be emplaced. Certain DUKW's, 
especially equipped with A-frame hoists 
mounted in the rear, took their places near 
the battery positions. The other vehicles 
with guns aboard were driven one at a 
time at right angles across the rear ends of 
the A-frame DUKW's and halted under 
the hoists. There, each piece was lifted 
clear of the DUKW that had transported 
it, lowered to the ground, hooked to the 
pintle of the same vehicle and pulled into 
position. Under the most favorable condi- 
tions, a whole battalion could be brought 
into position in seven minutes. 29 

The 31st Field Artillery Battalion was 
the first to commence unloading its how- 
itzers. Its DUKW's proceeded from the 
beach across the island and along the 
lagoon shore to a spot opposite the battal- 
ion area. Then, with the aid of a bulldozer 
and much tree cutting, they hauled the 
pieces to a thick coconut grove, unloaded 
them, and returned to the beach to pick up 
ammunition. Shortly after 1500 the 105's 
commenced registration fire on a Kwaja- 



lein Island check point, using smoke shells 
to distinguish their fire from that of the 
naval vessels, which were concurrently 
bombarding that island. Observation 
posts were later established in the radio 
tower, on the end of the pier, and in an 
LVT out in the lagoon, while registration 
was accomplished with the help of an ob- 
servation plane launched from one of the 
cruisers. 30 

The 48th, 49th, and 57th Field Artillery 
Battalions followed a similar pattern, occu- 
pying areas in the center and on the south- 
ern half of Carlson Island. At nightfall the 
last registration fire was being delivered on 
a check point on Kwajalein Island by the 
49th Battalion. Ammunition was being 
rapidly loaded into DUKW's from beached 
LST's, and before dawn a large supply of 
shells was on hand to support the main 
attack on Kwajalein. 31 

The divisional artillery was concentrated 
within an unusually limited area. The 
twelve batteries of 105's were crowded to- 
gether in an area only 900 yards long by 
150 yards wide. The guns of the 49th Bat- 
talion were at the southeastern end of the 
island; those of the 57th Battalion in the 
adjacent area to the northwest on the 
ocean side of the island; those of the 31st 
in a zone west of the pier line on the ocean 
side; and those of the 48th Battalion closely 
grouped south of the radio tower. The 
155-mm. howitzers of the 145th Battalion 

27 7th Inf Div Southern Landing Force Arty Rpt 
Kwajalein Opn, 1 2 Mar 44, pp. 3-11. 

28 145th FA Bn Rpt of Flintlock Opn, p. 4. 

29 7th Inf Div Rpt, use of DUKW's by the Artil- 
lery of the 7th Infantry Division in the Flintlock 
Operation, 4 Apr 44, p. 5. 

30 7th Inf Div Southern Landing Force Arty Rpt 
Kwajalein Opn, pp. 7, 13. 

31 Of these, 45 percent were high explosive, 40 
percent time-fuzed, and 15 percent smoke. 7th Inf 
Div Flintlock Rpt, Vol. XII, Arty Rpt, S-4 Rpt on 
Kwajalein, p. 2. 



228 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 




105-MM. M2 HOWITZERS in position on Carlson Island. 



were emplaced farthest from Kwajalein 
Island between two roads near the middle 
of Carlson. Following registration, the bat- 
teries prepared for an irregular schedule of 
harassing fire on both Kwajalein and 
Burton Islands so that the enemy would be 
prevented, if possible, from repairing and 
reorganizing his defenses. 32 

The night of D Day on southern Kwaja- 
lein found the Southern Attack Force, de- 
spite the unfinished business on Chauncey 
Island, with all its scheduled objectives 
attained. The channel islands were se- 
cured; the channel itself and an anchorage 
in the lagoon had been swept for mines; 
and a part of the invading force had en- 
tered the lagoon to take stations there. On 
Carlos and Carlson the Americans were in 
full possession. 

During the early afternoon, the 3d Bat- 



talion Landing Team of the 1 7th Infantry 
and one platoon of the 31st Field Hospital 
had been brought ashore on Carlos. By 
1 200 men of Company A of the 7th Medi- 
cal Battalion were ashore and operating a 
collecting station at the beach. 33 The 1st 
Battalion had returned to the northwest 
section of Carlos and the 3d Battalion, the 
reserve force, occupied the southeastern 
half. 

Supply sections of the 7th Division, 
which had been separated during the jour- 
ney to the island, had assembled ashore, 
co-ordinated their work, arranged their 
communications, and were beginning to 



32 Cpl Millard Rogers, The Artillery Action of the 
Battle of Kwajalein Atoll, MS, p. 21, and App II, 
Mapl,OCMH. 

33 7th Inf Div Med Bn Rpt of Activity During 
Flintlock Opn, 22 Jan-8 Feb 44, pp. 12, 23. 



THE INVASION OF SOUTHERN KWAJALEIN 



229 



build dumps. At 1800, on the northern tip 
of Carlos, a detachment of the 707th Ord- 
nance Company had set up the LVT main- 
tenance shop capable of handling heavy 
repairs. 34 At the southern end of the island 
a consolidated ammunition dump was pre- 
pared during the night and was ready for 
use by 0800 on 1 February. 

Carlson Island was the scene of even 
greater night activity. As planned, the 7th 
Division's headquarters, rear section, had 
remained on board Admiral Turner's flag- 
ship, Rocky Mount, together with that of the 
V Amphibious Corps, but during the after- 
noon the command posts and headquarters 
had been set up on Carlson by the 2d Bat- 
talion, 17th Infantry, by the division artil- 
lery, and by the 7th Division forward 
echelon, the latter commanded by Brig. 
Gen. Joseph L. Ready. At 1645 General 
Corlett, having observed the early landing 
of the division artillery, ordered harassing 
fire placed on Kwajalein Island through- 
out the night. As a result, there was a much 
longer preliminary artillery bombardment 
than the one-hour preparation indicated 
in the plans as a minimum. During the 
night both Kwajalein and Burton Islands 
were treated to a continuing harassing fire 
by the artillery emplaced on Carlson. 35 

After dark, naval support vessels joined 
with the artillery to keep a constant har- 
assing fire over Kwajalein and Burton. The 
larger island was shelled by San Francisco, 
Idaho, New Mexico, and their screening de- 
stroyers, while Burton was covered by the 
destroyer Hall. Troops of the 32d and 
184th Regimental Combat Teams had 
moved during the afternoon from their 
transports to LST's, which were spending 
the night either west of Kwajalein Island 
or in the lagoon with orders to return to 
the transport area at 0530. The remaining 
vessels of the Southern Attack Force oper- 



ated in waters southwest, south, and south- 
east of Kwajalein Island with orders to be 
in the transport area at 0600. 36 

One of the novel experiments of the 
Marshalls operation had also been carried 
out on D Day with successful, although in 
a sense inconclusive, results. This was the 
employment for the first time in the Pacific 
of an underwater demolition team, com- 
posed in this instance of both Army and 
Navy personnel, whose duties were to con- 
duct close reconnaissance of the beaches 
at the western end of Kwajalein Island 
and, if necessary, detonate any underwater 
obstacles found there. At high tide on the 
morning of 31 January, shortly after 1000, 
and again at low tide at approximately 
1600, this detachment worked its way to 
points within 300 yards of the beach. Fire 
from the battleships Pennsylvania and Mis- 
sissippi covered these intrepid individuals 
as they ranged over the approaches to the 
main landing beaches in rubber boats. 
Having ascertained that surf and reef con- 
ditions were satisfactory and that no under- 
water obstacles or antiboat mines were 
located off the beaches, they returned with- 
out casualty. Since there were no under- 
water obstacles present, no opportunity 
was allowed the team to test its detonation 
equipment technique under combat condi- 
tions. Nevertheless, the team performed 
valuable service later in the operation in 
the demolition of wrecks, coral heads, and 
other underwater obstructions along the 
lagoon shore of the island. 37 



34 7th Inf Div Flintlock Rpt, Vol. VII, G-4 Rpt, 
Annex F, QM Rpt, p. 1, and Annex E, Ordnance 
Rpt, 707th Ord Co Narrative Rpt, p. 1. 

35 7th Inf Div Southern Landing Force Arty Rpt 
Kwajalein Opn, p. 1 1 ; 145th FA Bn Rpt of Flint- 
lock Opn, p. 1 7 1 ; 7th Inf Div G-3 Jnl, 3 1 Jan 44, 
Msgs 87, 125. 

36 TF 51 Marshalls Rpt, Incl A, p. 4. 

37 Ibid., Incl E, pp. 7-8. 



230 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



With all the conditions for a successful 
landing deemed favorable, Admiral Turner 
issued the order at 1622 on 31 January that 
the main assault on the western beaches of 
Kwajalein Island should proceed the fol- 
lowing day. The scheduled time of land- 
ing, H Hour, was set at 0930. The attack 
would be carried out according to the 
original plan. 38 

The Landings on Kwajalein Island 

Long before sunrise on the morning of 
1 February 1944 the Southern Attack 
Force at Kwajalein Atoll moved from its 
night cruising dispositions to the positions 
assigned for the day's operations against 
Kwajalein Island. The eight LST's on 
which the leading wave of assault troops 
had spent the night were the first to ap- 
proach their rendezvous, at 0530, and 
within half an hour the larger transports 
and the warships that were to provide fire 
support were taking stations. At 0618 Mis- 
sissippi and Pennsylvania took up the harass- 
ing fire, which had been maintained during 
the night by other ships and by the artillery 
on Carlson. 39 Squalls, frequent rain 
showers, and scudding clouds lowered visi- 
bility. They threatened to hamper the 
attack but not to compel either its post- 
ponement or the adoption of the alterna- 
tive plan for a complicated landing from 
the lagoon. 40 The assault was to be made 
from the ocean against the western end of 
Kwajalein Island. 

As the sun rose at 0712, Mississippi 
moved to a range of about 1,500 yards to 
fire broadsides on visible targets. The other 
support vessels closed to about the same 
range when the systematic preparatory fire 
was begun at 0745. At that time Mississippi 
switched her salvos to Burton, northeast of 
Kwajalein, and Pennsylvania, New Mexico, 



Minneapolis, New Orleans, and San Francisco, 
screened by eight destroyers, directed their 
main batteries at the western end of 
Kwajalein Island in direct preparation for 
the landings. The destroyers Ringgold and 
Sigsbee entered the lagoon and prepared to 
prevent interisland movement by the 
enemy. 41 

The preparatory bombardment of Kwa- 
jalein Island was unprecedented in the 
Pacific in both volume and effectiveness. 
During one period two shells per second 
were hitting specific targets or areas in the 
path of the assault troops. The 14-inch 
naval shells of the battleships were most 
effective in piercing and destroying rein- 
forced concrete structures. From the 
cruisers and destroyers, 8-inch and 5-inch 
shells ploughed into bunkers and tore up 
the thick growth of pandanus and palm 
trees. All together on 1 February, almost 
7,000 14-inch, 8-inch, and 5-inch shells 
were fired by supporting naval vessels at 
Kwajalein Island alone, 42 and the bulk of 
these were expended against the main 
beaches before the landing. The field artil- 
lery on Carlson also joined in the prepara- 
tory fire. Its total ammunition expenditure 
on 1 February against Kwajalein was 
about 29,000 rounds. 43 Finally, aerial bom- 
bardment added its bit to the pulverization 
of Kwajalein's defenses. At 0810 six Liber- 
ators (B-24's) of the 392d Bombardment 
Squadron based on Apamama reported on 
station. Between 0830 and 0910 they flew 
above the trajectory of the naval and artil- 
lery shells and dropped fifteen 1 ,000-pound 
and 2, 000- pound bombs on the blockhouse 

38 7th InfDiv G-3 Jnl, 3 1 Jan 44, Msg 1 22. 

39 TF 51 Marshalls Rpt, Incl E, App 2, p. 4. 

40 Ibid., Incl F, p. 3. 

41 Ibid., Incl E, App 2, p. 4. 

42 Ibid., Incl E, App 1, Table 3. 

43 7th InfDiv Southern Landing Force Arty Rpt 
Kwajalein Opn, p. 1 1. 



232 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



and dual-purpose twin-mount guns at the 
northwestern end of Kwajalein Island. 44 
This was followed almost immediately by 
bombing and strafing attacks carried out 
by carrier-based aircraft. From the carriers 
Enterprise, Yorktown, Belleau Wood, Manila 
Bay, Corregidor, and Coral Sea eighteen dive 
bombers and fifteen torpedo bombers 
struck the western part of Kwajalein Island 
while as many fighters strafed the area with 
machine guns and rockets. All together 
ninety-six sorties were flown from the car- 
riers in support of the troop landing on 
Kwajalein Island. 45 

The results of all this expenditure of 
explosives were devastating. The damage 
was so intensive that it is impossible to de- 
termine the relative effectiveness of the 
three types of bombardment — naval, artil- 
lery, and air. The area inland of Red 
Beaches was reduced almost completely to 
rubble. Concrete emplacements were shat- 
tered, coconut trees smashed and flattened, 
the ground pock-marked with large cra- 
ters, coral ripped to splinters. As one 
observer reported, "The entire island 
looked as if it had been picked up to 20,000 
feet and then dropped." 46 

The Assault Landings 

The first touchdowns were to occur at 
0930. As the time for departure ap- 
proached, ships, amphibian vehicles, and 
landing craft began to take their assigned 
places. The line of departure was 5,000 
yards northwest of Kwajalein Island, south 
of the center of Carlson Island, and the 
transport area was about 3,000 yards 
southwest of the line. 47 Control over the 
landing waves was vested in the com- 
manding officers of the 184th and 32d 
Regimental Combat Teams, who were lo- 
cated on the control ship, a subchaser (SC 



539). 48 The LST's carrying the amphibian 
tractors went into position about 1,000 
yards west of the line of departure, lowered 
their ramps, and launched their amph- 
tracks with the troops loaded. The tractors 
began to circle slowly in a column of 
waves, waiting the signal to move into line. 
The LSD's Lindenwald, Belle Grove, and 
Ashland in an area west of the LST's 
launched the LCM's containing the me- 
dium tanks of Companies A, B, C, and 
part of D of the 767th Tank Battalion. 49 
Two small control boats, assigned to keep 
the landing craft moving toward the shore 
at proper intervals, took stations just 
seaward of the line of departure. Near 
the ends of the line the amphibian tanks 
of Company A, 708th Amphibian Tank 
Battalion, circled after being released from 
their mother LST, waiting to take their 
wing positions with the first waves to go 
ashore. 50 Farther back in the transport 
area, the landing craft on the transports 
were swung out from the decks and 
launched. They were to carry the support- 
ing waves with extra ammunition and 
equipment. Two LST's with high priority 
supplies and the DUKW groups waited to 
move near enough to the beaches to send 
in supplies quickly. 51 

The northern (left) part of the 500-yard 



44 Operational History of the Seventh Air Force, 6 
Nov 43-3 1 Jul 44, p. 125; Craven and Cate, AAF IV, 
p. 306. 

45 CINCPAC-CINCPOA Opns in POA, Feb 44, 
Annex A, p. 35; TF 51 Marshalls Rpt, Annex F, p. 3. 

46 CINCPAC-CINCPOA Opns in POA, Feb 44, 
Annex A, p. 35; TF 51 Marshalls Rpt, Incl E, p. 11. 

47 TF 52 Attack Order Al-44. 

48 7th Inf Div Flintlock Rpt, Vol. XI, RCT 184 
Rpt of Opns and Jnl, 31 Jan-6 Feb 44 (hereafter cited 
as RCT 184 Rpt and RCT 184 Jnl), p. 2. 

49 7 th Inf Div G-3 Jnl, 1 Feb 44, Msg 13; 767th 
Tk Bn Jnl, 3 1 Jan 44, pp. 2, 32. 

50 LST 224 Action Rpt Kwajalein, 8 Feb 44. 

51 7th Inf Div G-4 Rpt, Annex A, Initial Combat 
Supply, p. 3. 



THE INVASION OF SOUTHERN KWAJALEIN 



233 



western shore line had been designated 
Red Beach 1 , and the southern (right) part 
was Red Beach 2. (Map VII) Preliminary 
reconnaissance had indicated the existence 
of the stronger fortifications along the 
ocean side, and for that reason the combat- 
seasoned 32d Regimental Combat Team, 
under Col. Marc J. Logie, was assigned the 
landing on Red Beach 2. The 184th Regi- 
mental Combat Team, under Col. Curtis 
D. O'Sullivan, was to land on Red Beach 
1 at the same time. The two combat teams 
were to make their assaults in columns of 
battalions, led by the 1st Battalion of the 
32d, containing 84 officers and 1,628 en- 
listed men, and the 3d Battalion of the 
184th, consisting of 73 officers and 1,489 
enlisted men. Of the three companies of 
the 767th Tank Battalion, Company B 
would support the landing of the 184th on 
Red Beach 1 and Company A that of the 
32d on Red Beach 2, while Company C 
would be held in reserve under division 
control. 52 

The enemy offered some resistance to 
the gathering attack in spite of the over- 
whelming preparatory fire that had already 
wrecked most of their guns on the western 
end of Kwajalein Island. A few antiaircraft 
shells fell among the assembling landing 
craft, one of them striking an LVT, injur- 
ing two men and knocking the vehicle out 
of action. The rest of the amphibian trac- 
tors, separated by about twenty yards 
between vehicles and about 100 yards be- 
tween waves, continued to circle under 
excellent control. Nevertheless, one acci- 
dental collision between two amphibians 
occurred, damaging one of them and inter- 
fering slightly with the landing schedule. 53 

The first waves of the 3d Battalion, 
184th, commanded by Lt. Col. William R 
Walker, and of the 1st Battalion, 32d, 
under Lt. Col. Ernest H. Bearss, started for 



the shore precisely on time at 0900 after 
receiving the signal from the control boat. 54 
The LVT's mounted at least two, some- 
times three, machine guns each, and, in 
addition, twenty of them had specially 
mounted infantry-type flame throwers that 
could be operated from the assistant 
driver's seat. 55 At each outside wing and in 
the center between the first two waves, pla- 
toons of amphibian tanks were echeloned. 
From their turrets, 37-mm. guns protruded. 
Behind the first wave came three succeed- 
ing waves of infantry at two-minute 
intervals. 

As the tractors set out for their thirty- 
minute run from the line of departure to 
the shore, Navy aircraft strafed the 
beaches in a last-minute blow. At 0905 
artillery and naval ships resumed fire 
against the beaches and kept it up until 
0928, two minutes before the touchdown, 
after which they moved their fire inland. 
LCI gunboats added the final touch. Fir- 
ing from outside the lanes of approach at 
the northern and southern extremities of 
the landing area, they let go their 4.5-inch 
rockets at 1,100 yards from the shore line 
and again at 800 yards and fired their 
20-mm. and 40-mm. guns at still closer 
ranges. The seventeen amphibian tanks on 
the wings and in the center, and the trac- 
tors in between them also rode in firing. 
Small arms and mortar fire from the Japa- 
nese inflicted few injuries among the in- 
coming troops, and for the most part the 
waves preserved their formation. 56 

There was, however, some s hifting to the 
right (south). The steering mechanism of 



32 7th Inf Div FO 1, p. 7; 7th Inf Div FO 2, p. 2. 

53 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, pp. 5-6. 

54 7th Inf Div G-3 Jnl, 1 Feb 44, Msg 22. 

55 Flame throwers were also installed on eighteen 
light tanks. 767th Tk Bn Flintlock Rpt, pp. 52, 53; 
Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, p. 2. 

56 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, pp. 1-6. 



THE INVASION OF SOUTHERN KWAJALEIN 



235 



the LVT that had been damaged in the 
collision caused it to veer from its position 
and move to the right among the tractors 
of the 1st Battalion, 32d Regiment. All the 
landing vehicles inclined slightly to the 
right toward the southern boundaries of 
the boat lanes, and after they crossed the 
reef the current took them still farther in 
that direction. The result was some crowd- 
ing on the south, but not enough to inter- 
fere seriously with the landing. 57 

Artillery fire from Carlson was still fall- 
ing on the beaches as the LVT's reached 
positions only thirty-five yards offshore. 
Thereupon it was shifted to a zone 200 
yards inland. Although most of the defen- 
sive positions immediately inland of the 
shore line had been obliterated, shell cra- 
ters and piles of debris everywhere re- 
mained to deter the invaders. The first 
wave landed on schedule at 0930. In the 
zone of the 3 2d Regimental Combat Team 
enough of the enemy survived in their 
underground shelters or filtered back 
through the curtain of artillery and naval 
gunfire to greet the attackers with small 
arms fire and grenades. From a few unde- 
stroyed pillboxes inland of the beaches, the 
Japanese opened up with light mortar and 
automatic fire — fire heavy enough to 
cause a few casualties among the first 
waves. 58 

As the first troops dropped down from 
the high sides of the amphtracks into the 
shallow water or onto the beach itself, most 
of them ran over the dune and sought 
shelter behind the wreckage of a sea wall 
until the artillery and naval fire lifted in- 
land. On Red Beach 1 , where the sea wall 
was almost at the water's edge, the LVT's 
were tilted up enough to obtain a fair field 
of fire inland. On Red Beach 2 the am- 
phibians stopped at the water line, their 
fire sweeping barely above the men of the 



1st Battalion. For about two minutes the 
men of the first wave on Red Beach 2 
waited in the shelter of the sea wall while 
LVT's poured fire over their heads. Then, 
while a detail demolished one remaining 
pillbox on the beach itself, the rest of the 
men moved forward rapidly to seek out the 
enemy just beyond the beach. 59 On the 
left, the two assault companies (Companies 
I and K) of the 3d Battalion, 184th Infan- 
try, were also making progress. By 1122 
both assault battalions were reported to 
have advanced 150 yards inland against 
only slight resistance. 60 

Combat engineers carrying demolition 
charges and wire cutters were distributed 
among the first wave of infantrymen and 
were prepared to clear the way for the sec- 
ond and subsequent waves to move inland. 
The preparatory fire, however, had been 
so effective that further demolition work 
was unnecessary. Both engineers and cov- 
ering infantry were therefore able to 
advance inland with the second wave. 61 

The amphibian tanks of the first line of 
attack were expected to proceed inland, 
striking targets found within a hundred 
yards of the shore. The LVT's in the sec- 
ond and third waves were to move to the 
flanks and circle back to the ships to bring 
in the men of the later waves who were em- 
barked in landing craft too deep-drafted to 
get over the reef. All vehicles met serious 
difficulties on the beaches. Some found the 
undestroyed portions of the sea wall too 
high to cross; others fell into shell holes or 



57 Ibid., pp. 6-7. 

58 Ibid., p. 14; 7th Inf Div Flintlock Rpt, Vol. IX, 
RCT 32 Rpt of Opn Porcelain (Kwajalein) Island, 
and Jnl, 31 Jan-6 Feb 44 (hereafter cited as RCT 32 
Rpt and RCT 32 Jnl), p. 30. 

SM Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, p. 7; RCT 
32 Rpt, p. 30. 

60 RCT 184 Jnl, 1 Feb 44. 

61 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, p. 14. 



236 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



got hung up on high stumps. Most of the 
tractors, after landing their troops, found 
lateral movement along the beaches so im- 
peded by the litter left by the first wave of 
infantrymen and engineers that, instead of 
adhering to the original plan of moving to 
the flanks before returning seaward, they 
turned around on the beach or backed into 
the water. This caused considerable con- 
gestion and slowed the fourth wave's 
approach to the shore. Troops in this wave 
either waded in or waited for the beach to 
be cleared. 62 In spite of these difficulties, 
the first four waves of both battalion land- 
ing teams were ashore within fifteen min- 
utes after the designated H Hour. 63 

Build-up of the Assault 

While some elements of the first four 
waves pressed forward in the wake of the 
artillery barrage and others organized the 
beaches, additional infantry and units of 
supporting arms and services continued to 
come ashore throughout the day. 

The 32d Regiment's forward command 
party landed at 0950 and set up a com- 
mand post a few yards inland in the center 
of Red Beach 2. 64 The 184th's advance 
command post was established on Red 
Beach 1 at 1235. 65 

The light tanks, carried in LGM's, ap- 
proached the beach in the fifth wave. 
Stopped on the reef at 0947, the tank 
lighters discharged their tanks, which then 
tried to make shore under their own power. 
Three light tanks were stranded on the 
reef. All six of the medium tanks of the 
sixth wave assigned to Red Beach 2 got 
ashore, but two destined for Red Beach 1 
were held up by the reef and an under- 
water shell hole. After drying out motors 
and radios, those tanks that had landed 
struggled inland across the crowded, shell- 
torn beach and over the sea wall. Most of 



the tanks succeeded in pushing on, but the 
marshy land behind Red Beach 2 held 
four up. 66 

At 1205 the 2d and 3d Platoons, Com- 
pany A, 767th Tank Battalion, were or- 
dered into shore and, with one casualty on 
the reef, proceeded inland via Blue Beach 
1, which was located on the southwest 
corner of the island to the right of Red 
Beach 2. The 2d Platoon was sent forward 
and the 3d Platoon remained on the beach 
in reserve. The 2d Platoon of Company B 
reached Red Beach 1 at 1400. It landed 
without mishap, being guided ashore by 
four stranded medium tank crewmen of 
the 1st Platoon who stood on the reef in 
water up to their armpits and directed the 
tanks around the underwater hazards. The 
tanks went forward to support the infantry 
without delay, using a new route from the 
beach that had been cleared by bull- 
dozers. 67 The 1st Platoon, Company B, 
and the 2d Platoon, Company C, brought 
their twelve mediums in at 1600 while the 
1st Battalion, 184th, was still being landed. 
One medium tank was disabled on the 
reef; the others went into bivouac. When 
the 1st and 3d Platoons, Company C, were 
sent to Red Beach 2 by error between 1630 
and 1700, they were kept ashore overnight 
and re-embarked late the next day to par- 
ticipate with the 17th Infantry Regiment 
in the forthcoming operations on Burton 
Island. 68 



62 RCT 32 Jnl, 1 Feb 44, Msg 18. 

63 7th InfDivG-3Jnl, 1 Feb 44, Msg 45; 767th Tk 
Bn Jnl, 1 Feb 44, p. 4; Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, 
Vol. I, p. 3. 

64 RCT 32 Jnl, 1 Feb 44, Msg 18a. 

65 RCT 184 Jnl, 1 Feb 44. 

86 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, pp. 9, 15, 94. 

67 RCT 32 Jnl, 1 Feb 44, Msg 50; Marshall, Kwa- 
jalein Notes, Vol. I, p. 9; 767th Tk Bn Jnl, 1 Feb 44, 
p. 4. 

68 767th Tk Bn Jnl, 1 Feb 44, p. 6; Leach, Tanks on 
Kwajalein Atoll. 



238 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



Combat engineers found their problems 
fewer than had been anticipated. Without 
much difficulty they cleared the beach of 
enemy explosives, set up demolition 
dumps, and replenished forward ammuni- 
tion supplies. They later joined the shore 
party engineers in smoothing out the rough 
passage from the beach to the western sec- 
tion of the island highway (Wallace Road) 
with bulldozers and in repairing that sec- 
tion of the highway. The first of the supply 
DUKW's came ashore just before noon. 
Seven were sent forward over the new 
route with grenades, 75-mm. shells, and 
other ammunition. 69 The materiel dropped 
from the LVT's was gathered by engineers 
and put in a dump about fifty yards inland. 
Regimental supply personnel arrived at 
Red Beach 2 about 1115. They later 
established a supply point well inland in 
the wake of the assault forces. 70 

One platoon of the 184th Regiment's 
81 -mm. mortars erroneously landed at 
1025 on Red Beach 2, but was quickly 
moved to Red Beach 1 to support the regi- 
ment's attack. 71 Late in the afternoon the 
1st Platoon of the 91st Chemical Com- 
pany, which was attached to the 3 2d Regi- 
ment, was emplaced near the southern 
limit of Red Beach 2, having been landed 
during the morning and early afternoon. 
Extra ammunition with which to fire night 
missions, however, was unavailable until 
early the next morning. The 2d Platoon, 
91st Chemical Company, landed at 1630 
on Red Beach 1 in support of the 184th. 
After having been afloat in landing craft 
for seven hours, it came ashore in four 
crowded amphtracks with its mortars un- 
assembled. The weapons were assembled 
near the lagoon shore about 150 yards 
from Red Beach 1, and a fire direction 
center was established near the mortars. 72 
The Cannon Companies of the two regi- 



mental combat teams landed one platoon 
at a time with each battalion. Some of the 
75-mm. howitzers were packed ashore, 
while others were waterproofed and towed 
over the reef from landing craft. The how- 
itzers of the 32d Regiment were emplaced 
by 1700 in the southwest corner of a natu- 
ral clearing just beyond the beachhead 
line, which lay about 250 yards inland. 73 
As early as 1330 one section of the 184th's 
Cannon Company was firing from a posi- 
tion on the lagoon shore line; about three 
hours later three more pieces were in bat- 
tery formation with it. The remaining pla- 
toon landed about 1900 and went into 
bivouac. 74 

Each of the nine battalion landing teams 
at southern Kwajalein was assigned a col- 
lecting platoon of the 7th Medical Battal- 
ion. The first to land was the 1st Platoon, 
Company B, which came in at Red Beach 
2 with the 1st Battalion, 32d Regiment, at 
1 130. An hour later the 3d Platoon, Com- 
pany C, landed on Red Beach 1 with the 
3d Battalion, 184th. Each platoon set up a 
collecting station on the beach and evacu- 
ated casualties by LVT's to the transport. 
When the shore party medical sections 
were ready on the beaches, evacuation of 
casualties was turned over to them, and 
the collecting platoons, each now rein- 
forced by a second, moved inland from the 
beaches to set up two collecting stations. 
Before night, all collecting platoons and 
headquarters of each medical company 



69 RCT 32 Jnl, 1 Feb 44, Msg 54. 
T0 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, p. 95; RCT 
32 Rpt, p. 34. 

71 7th Inf Div Flintlock Rpt, Vol. XI, RCT 184 
Rpt of Opns, BLT 184-1 Rpt of Opns, Jnl, 1 Feb 44, 
p. 87. 

72 91st Chemical Co Rpt of Participation in Kwa- 
jalein Opns, 18 Feb 44, pp. 131-41. 

73 RCT 3 2 Rpt, p. 22. 

74 RCT 184 Rpt, p. 43. 



THE INVASION OF SOUTHERN KWAJALEIN 



239 




75-MM. HOWITZER IN ACTION against enemy positions across the lagoon. 



were ashore. 75 Evacuation of the injured 
along the highway to the beaches was 
swift. Because of the small number of 
casualties, only one platoon was needed to 
operate a collecting station in each regi- 
mental zone. Men of the other two pla- 
toons were sent forward to act as litter 
bearers, thus accelerating the medical serv- 
ice. About 1530 the 7th Infantry Division 
Medical Battalion headquarters and head- 
quarters detachment established the bat- 
talion command post about 200 yards 
inland, midway between the two beaches. 
The 1st Platoon, Company D, 7th Infantry 
Division Medical Battalion, landed some 
three hours later and was held in reserve 
near the command post pending the estab- 
lishment of a clearing station, which was 
not put into operation until the morning 
of 4 February. 76 



On Red Beach 1 a switchboard set up 
by the 75th JASCO and wire laid by 7th 
Infantry Division Signal Company ele- 
ments connected the two regimental com- 
mand posts with each other and with that 
of the 7th Division on Carlson Island, and 
also linked the six battalions with the divi- 
sion artillery batteries. Amphibian tractors 
laid 4,500 yards of submarine cable along 
the atoll reef between the two islands. 
Later, the ebb and flow of the sea dragged 
the cable over the sharp coral and broke it 
from time to time, but cable laying details 
continually repaired the damage. 77 

The 2d Battalion, 32d Regiment, was 
available for support from the moment the 

75 7th Inf Div Med Bn Rpt of Activities During 
Flintlock Opn, 22 Jan-8 Feb 44, pp. 13, 14. 

76 Ibid., pp. 14, 15. 

77 RCT 184 Rpt, p. 37. 



240 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



landings began; its four assault waves had 
embarked in amphibian tractors and its 
four supporting waves in landing craft 
shortly after sunrise. They were ordered 
ashore at 1035. After the first waves had 
landed, the LVT's returned to pick up the 
troops of the four supporting waves at the 
edge of the reef. Early in the afternoon 
they reorganized near the beach and 
started eastward in column of companies. 
The 3d Battalion, 32d, spent most of the 
day at sea, coming ashore in the afternoon. 
This battalion, the regimental reserve, was 
not committed until the next day. 78 

The 2d Battalion, 184th Regiment, the 
support battalion, landed on Red Beach 1 
between 1330 and 1630, formed a column 
of companies to mop up the area behind 
the 3d Battalion, and later established a 
defensive perimeter for the night. The 1st 



Battalion, in reserve, landed between 1800 
and 1930 and crowded into the limited 
bivouac area near the lagoon. 79 

Throughout 1 February the Southern 
Landing Force thus built up its assault and 
support elements on the western end of 
Kwajalein Island as rapidly as reef and 
beaches could be crossed. Their task was 
relatively easy because of the light opposi- 
tion encountered on the beaches. The con- 
fusion that had marked the landing of 
assault and support units at Tarawa was 
nowhere apparent at Kwajalein. Naval, 
artillery, and aerial bombardment had 
done their work well. The troops had been 
carried ashore on schedule and in sufficient 
number to sustain the assault. The ship-to- 
shore movement was an eminent success. 

78 RCT 32 Jnl, 1 Feb 44, Msgs 29a, 35, 101. 

79 RCT 184 Rpt. 



CHAPTER XV 



Reduction of the Main Defenses 
of Kwajalein Island 



The Push Inland: First Day 

There was one main highway on Kwa- 
jalein Island, which completely circled it, 
paralleling the shore line for most of its 
length and inla nd from the bea ch about a 
hundred yards. ( See Map V .) The north- 



ern (lagoon) section of the highway was 
known as Will Road; the southern (ocean) 
section, as Wallace Road. At the western 
end of the island, the loop ran somewhat 
farther inland, but there, and at various 
points along the ocean shore, secondary 
roads branched from the highway to in- 
stallations nearer the water. Approxi- 
mately twenty cross-island roads short- 
circuited the main loop. In the narrow, 
northeastern end of the island among the 
various buildings, these cross-island roads 
were near enough together to seem like 
streets of a village. Air photographs showed 
that the small airfield near the center of 
the island was still under construction just 
before the landings. It consisted of a single 
runway paralleled on the north by a nar- 
rower strip used for dispersal. Between the 
dispersal strip and the runway, wooded 
areas had been separated by two trans- 
verse clearings and further divided by 
straight narrow roads that ran almost all 
the way across the island from ocean to 



lagoon. Less than one eighth of the run- 
way had been paved in concrete. 1 

Construction materials for the Japanese 
installations on Kwajalein were delivered 
to the lagoon at wooden docks directly 
north of the center of the airfield and at a 
long coral-filled pier nearer the northeast- 
ern end of the island. The docks, referred 
to in the operation maps as Center Pier, 
were shaped like a wide capital H, and 
were accessible to boats of shallow draft 
only. The long pier, designated Nob Pier, 
almost a mile farther northeast along the 
lagoon shore, projected westward across 
the reef for some five hundred yards to 
reach deep water. It was shaped much like 
a hocky stick with a wide blade projecting 
at an angle from its long slender causeway. 

Just west of the airfield and lying within 
the western loop of the island highway was 
a depressed area of land, largely cleared 
except for some brush, designated Wart 
Area on operation maps. It stretched from 
Will Road on the north to a fringe of trees 
near Wallace Road on the south, a dis- 
tance of 450 yards; the distance from the 
highway loop on the west to a semicircle of 
trees ringing the eastern edge of this clear- 
ing was about 500 yards. In this area the 



1 7th Inf Div Flintlock Rpt, Vol. II, FO 1, Opns 
Map; JICPOA Bull 48-44, Jul 44, p. 1. 



242 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



Japanese had set up a radio direction 
finder with auxiliary radio installations in 
four buildings. About 1,500 yards farther 
east, at the eastern end of the runway, an- 
other clearing, approximately 300 yards 
by 600 yards, extended along the ocean 
shore. It was crossed by Wallace Road, by 
two cross-island roads (Cox and Carl 
Roads), and by an antitank ditch. 

Commencing near the base of Center 
Pier and extending along the lagoon side 
of the island to the northeastern tip, the 
Japanese had constructed most of their 
buildings. North of the base of Nob Pier 
these structures filled most of the area 
within the loop of the highway. 

The Advance From the Beaches 

The beachhead line lay about 250 yards 
inland, along the western loop of the main 
island highway, which there ran north and 
south roughly parallel to the two Red 
Beaches. The shore rose just behind the 
beaches to an island rim a few yards wide 
and about ten feet above sea level. East 
of this higher ground as far as the beach- 
head line were marshy dips covered with 
thick underbrush. Vegetation was thickest 
behind Red Beach 2, in the line of the 32d 
Regiment advance. The northern zone, 
which was drier, having been shaded only 
by tall coconut palms more widely spaced, 
contained several buildings strung along 
an additional loop of secondary road that 
linked the northwest point and the high- 
way. From the shell-pocked reef and torn- 
up terrain along the beach itself, the ad- 
vance had to be made through debris and 
soft ground, both of which presented great 
difficulty to tanks and other vehicles. 

The northern boundary of the 32d Regi- 
ment's zone ran a little north of the middle 
of the island, from Red Beach 2 to a road 



junction at the western edge of Wart Area. 
The ocean shore on the regiment's right 
curved southeast, widening the area from 
about 275 yards at the beach to about 400 
yards at the beachhead line. Within the 
32d's zone the enemy defenses, referred to 
as Wet Strong Point, were expected to con- 
sist of pillboxes and antiaircraft gun posi- 
tions, directly back of Red Beach 2, and 
a closely associated network of installations 
along the ocean shore. 

As the 1st Battalion, 32d Infantry, ad- 
vanced after landing on Red Beach 2, it 
discovered the enemy defenses surprisingly 
weak. Although several log shelters not in- 
dicated on the operations map were met, 
the group of prepared firing positions at 
Wet Strong Point was found to be non- 
existent. Moreover, very few dead Japa- 
nese were counted by the 1st Battalion as 
it moved toward the beachhead line with 
Company A on the right, Company B in 
the inner zone at the left, and part of Com- 
pany C following in reserve. The battalion 
reported only light, sc attered enemy res ist- 
ance to its advance. 2 (See Map VI. ) No 
large pillboxes remained to be demolished. 
Only a few of the enemy were discovered 
in small underground shelters. Japanese 
riflemen usually preferred to let the line 
pass, withholding fire until more profit- 
able targets appeared. The advance pla- 
toons were at the north-south portion of 
Wallace Road within an hour after the 
landing. The rest came up more slowly, 
but at 1130 the battalion was at the west- 
ern edge of the Wart Area clearing. 

In the northern zone, the 3d Battalion, 
184th Infantry, experienced more resist- 
ance during this phase of the battle than 
was met in the southern zone. Except for 
twenty-two men from Company K who 



2 RCT 32 Jnl, 1 Feb 44, Msgs 23a, 26, 28, 33a, 36, 
54a, 68; Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, p. 14. 



REDUCTION OF THE MAIN DEFENSES OF KWAJALEIN ISLAND 



243 



had been carried by a disabled LVT to 
Red Beach 2, and twenty-one men trans- 
ferred from another damaged tractor to 
one in the fourth wave, the first two waves 
of the 3d Battalion on Red Beach 1 con- 
tained all the troops of Companies K, I, 
and L, plus the 3d Platoon, Company C, 
13th Engineer Battalion. 3 

Ahead of them lay a network of several 
pillboxes, which still contained live Japa- 
nese in spite of the heavy preliminary 
bombardment. These were silenced in 
short order in a series of almost simulta- 
neous actions in which many varieties of 
weapons were used. Typical of the action 
at this juncture was the experience of two 
infantrymen of Company K, Pvt. Parvee 
Rasberry and Pfc. Paul Roper. The two 
men had landed near the left of Red 
Beach 1 and had run about twenty-five 
yards inland when they came under fire 
from one of the pillboxes in the area. 
Quickly taking shelter in a shell hole, they 
started lobbing grenades at the enemy po- 
sition about fifteen yards ahead. The Japa- 
nese merely threw the grenades back and 
the volley kept up until a flame thrower 
was brought forward. That, too, proved 
ineffective; the flames only hit the box and 
bounced back. Finally, Private Rasberry 
got out of his foxhole, crawled to within 
about five yards of the pillbox and threw 
in a white phosphorus smoke grenade. This 
flushed several Japanese from their cover 
into open positions where they could be 
taken under rifle fire. Those who weren't 
hit ran back to the pillbox. Rasberry threw 
white phosphorous grenades until he had 
none left, by which time about eight of the 
enemy had been killed. At this juncture, 
T. Sgt. Graydon Kickul of Company L was 
able to crawl up to the pillbox and on top 
of it. He emptied his Ml rifle into it, kill- 
ing the remainder of the Japanese inside. 



To make doubly certain that the job was 
done, an amphibian tank was then brought 
forward to fire both its flame thrower and 
its 37-mm. gun into the aperture. 

In much the same manner, all of the 
pillboxes were taken out or sufficiently neu- 
tralized to permit bypassing. When the 
work was completed, the assault Com- 
panies L and I passed through the first 
landing wave and continued on up the is- 
land. Company K now went into battalion 
reserve and, to the rear of the assault wave, 
continued to mop up positions that were 
bypassed as the attack progressed. 4 Com- 
pany I on the right and Company L on the 
left moved rapidly forward under protec- 
tion of artillery from Carlson Island. The 
184th Infantry was receiving direct sup- 
port from the 57th Field Artillery, which 
at 0947 had already established communi- 
cations with its forward observers in the 3d 
Battalion's front lines. 5 

Meanwhile, the 49th Field Artillery was 
furnishing direct support to the 32d In- 
fantry and at 0949 had its forward ob- 
servers for Battery A reporting at a point 
150 yards inland from Red Beach 2. 6 The 
remaining three battalions of divisional 
artillery continued general support by 
dropping barrages successively farther in- 
land. During the initial phase neither bat- 
talion had effective support from tanks, 
and the LVT(A)'s were left behind near 
the beaches. In the southern sector the 
swampy terrain held up the tanks until the 
infantrymen and engineers were well be- 
yond the beachhead line. In the northern 
sector the two medium tanks that had not 
foundered on the reef or at the approach 



:! Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, pp. 10-11. 

4 Ibid., Vol. I, pp. 10-13. 

5 7th Inf Div Flintlock Rpt, Vol. XII, 7th Inf Div 
Arty Rpt, Jnl, 1 Feb 44, Msg 23. 

6 Ibid., Msg 24. 



244 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



to the beach joined the 3d Battalion, 184th 
Infantry, just before it reached the beach- 
head line. 7 

Enemy dead, estimated at 250, lay 
scattered among the desolate ruins and 
tangled wreckage of the coconut grove or 
in the rubble and debris of shattered build- 
ings behind Red Beach 1. Although for 
over half an hour hidden Japanese strag- 
glers fired on the beach and harassed the 
advancing troops, both advance companies 
of the 184th reported insignificant opposi- 
tion. By 1135 they had come up to the 
north-south sector of Wallace Road and 
had reorganized for the next stage of the 
advance. 8 

The Second Phase 

The next objective of the two assault 
battalions was the line of Wilma Road, a 
north-south road that ran east of Wart 
Area and west of the landing strips, con- 
necting Will Road on the north with the 
ocean-shore stretch of Wallace Road. 

The zone ahead of the 32d Infantry in- 
cluded the southern part of Wart Area at 
the left and at the right some 550 yards of 
the shore stretch of Wallace Road, together 
with a band of wooded ground between 
that road and the ocean. The shore de- 
fenses in this section were grouped in two 
organized systems, designated Whistler 
Strong Point and Wheeler Strong Point. 
Each was thought to consist of machine 
gun and antiaircraft gun positions fronting 
the ocean, and a line of rifle pits and con- 
necting trench just inland. 9 

After halting at the beachhead line, 
Company B furnished covering fire over 
Wart Area while Company A continued to 
advance, with Company C behind it, along 
the wooded ground that stretched from the 
clearing to the ocean shore. 10 The forward 



company was out of communication with 
the battalion for over half an hour. At 1220 
it was reported to be progressing against 
rifle and machine gun fire only, and to 
have pushed to a point 250 yards west of 
Wilma Road. 11 Whistler Strong Point had 
proved to be unoccupied. 

Moving on toward Wheeler Strong 
Point, Company A encountered its first 
organized resistance of the day from pill- 
boxes along the ocean shore and suffered 
ten or eleven casualties. At 1330 steps were 
taken to shift the burden of the assault 
from the 32d Regiment's 1st Battalion to 
its 2d, commanded by Lt. Col. Glen A. 
Nelson. Company C, which had been fol- 
lowing behind Company A, was sent 
northeastward to clean up the dispersal 
area east of Wilma Road. Companies A 
and B were to be relieved by the 2d Bat- 
talion. As the latter came abreast of 
Wheeler Strong Point, it was fired upon 
from three pillboxes that Company A had 
failed to mop up completely. These were 
attacked and wiped out by infantrymen 
with the assistance of a platoon of medium 
tanks that had moved ahead to support the 
2d Battalion. 12 

Meanwhile, to the north, the 3d Battal- 
ion, 184th, was finding the resistance some- 
what tougher, as it had earlier in the 
morning. Before jumping off for the second 

7 7th Inf Div Flintlock Rpt, Vol. XI, RCT 184 
Rpt of Opns, BLT 184-3, Chronological Rpt of Opns 
(hereafter cited as BLT 184-3 Rpt), p. 1. 

8 RCT 184 Jnl, 01 1 135 Feb 44, 01 1240 Feb 44. (All 
messages of the 184th Infantry's Journal are time- 
dated in this manner and not numbered. The first two 
digits represent the day of the month, the last four 
the time of day.) Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, 
pp. 94-95. 

9 7th Inf Div Flintlock Rpt, Vol. II, FO 2, 6 Jan 
44, Opns Map, Phase II. 

10 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, p. 14. 

11 RCT 32 Jnl, 1 Feb 44, Msg 57a. 

12 Ibid., Msgs 75, 75a, 92; Marshall, Kwajalein 
Notes, Vol. I, pp. 15-16. 



REDUCTION OF THE MAIN DEFENSES OF KWAJALEIN ISLAND 



245 




FLAME THROWER in use against a Japanese blockhouse. 



phase of the attack, the battalion reorgan- 
ized. Company K took up the right half of 
the battalion line along the north-south 
segment of Wallace Road to furnish cover- 
ing fire over Wart Area, and Company I 
shifted to the rear of Company L, support- 
ing its advance at a distance of about two 
hundred yards. 13 Jumping off at noon, 
Company L fought for twenty minutes to 
reduce a bunker of reinforced concrete 
that had an extension constructed of logs 
and sand. Halfway between Will Road 
and the lagoon shore, it had been spotted 
as a pillbox but proved instead to be a very 
large shelter. Flame throwers proved in- 
effective, and the occupants emerged one 
at a time only after high-explosive and 
white phosphorus charges were used. 14 

Rifle fire and thick underbrush along 
Will Road north of the direction finder 



site, as well as machine gun and small arms 
fire, slowed Company L's progress. By 
1310, nevertheless, it had come to the po- 
sitions defending Wilma Road, and at 
1450 reported that the road in its zone was 
secured. 15 Company I pushed southeast- 
ward through the wreckage of a group of 
buildings to establish contact along Wilma 
Road with the left-hand elements of the 
32d Regiment. Some difficulty in achiev- 
ing contact arose from the fact that Com- 
pany C of the 32d had continued beyond 
Wilma Road into the dispersal area of the 
airfield, which was actually within the 
184th Regiment zone of action. 16 



13 BLT 184-3 Rpt, p. 2. 

14 RCT 184 Jnl, 01 1205 Feb 44, 01 1240 Feb 44. 

15 Ibid., 01 1450 Feb 44. 

16 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, pp. 16, 17. 



246 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



Seizure of the Airfield Begins 

The area east of Wilma Road contained 
the airfield. Two bands of wooded ground, 
studded with fortified positions and laced 
with trenches, lay along and back of the 
lagoon and ocean beaches on either side of 
the airfield. In the center of the field, be- 
tween the airstrips, stretched a third 
wooded area about a hundred yards wide. 
The rest of the sector had been cleared of 
trees by the Japanese. Immediately east of 
Wilma Road was a major dispersal area, 
shaped much like a fishhook, curving away 
from the line of advance at the right to a 
barbed point on the regimental boundary, 
and broadening at the left into the western 
terminus of the airstrips. This terminus 
was a single clearing, 300 yards from north 
to south and 75 yards from west to east. 
The two airstrips — one a runway strip and 
the other a dispersal strip — extended east- 
ward about 1,200 yards to another un- 
broken cleared area. The northern (dis- 
persal) strip was about 50, and the southern 
over 100 yards wide. The boundary be- 
tween the zones of the 184th and 32d 
Regiments had been set along the southern 
(runway) strip, about one fourth of the dis- 
tance from its northern edge. Bombard- 
ment had shattered most of the trees not 
previously cleared by the Japanese from 
the wide area extending from Will Road 
on the north to Wallace Road on the south. 
Except for a jumble of trunks, branches, 
and fronds in the area between the air- 
strips and between the southern strip and 
Wallace Road, the island seemed to have 
become one broad clearing between coastal 
fringes of vegetation. 

Some of the enemy held out at the 
western end of the field as the advance bat- 
talions continued the attack and the 2d 
Battalion, 32d Infantry, moved forward to 



pass through the 1st Battalion. 17 No firm 
defensive position commanding the entire 
width of the island had been established, 
however. The bulk of the defenders had 
simply retired eastward. 

Three coastal defense positions were 
anticipated on the ocean side along the 
shore. They were labeled on the operations 
map Worden, Canary, and Cat Strong 
Points. 18 Worden Strong Point was be- 
lieved to contain a covered artillery posi- 
tion for a field piece, a heavy antiaircraft 
gun, four machine gun emplacements, a 
network of rifle trenches, and some uniden- 
tified buildings. Canary Strong Point was 
thought to include two groups of positions, 
each similar to Worden and separated by 
over a hundred yards of brush-covered 
ground, in which the presence of pillboxes 
and connecting trenches was suspected but 
not definitely established. Worden was 200 
yards beyond the Wilma Road line, and 
Canary about 800 yards farther. Four 
hundred and fifty yards beyond Canary 
was Cat Strong Point, extending along 
some three hundred yards of ocean shore 
south of the airfield's eastern end. The 
troops of the 3 2d Infantry would not reach 
it until the next day. 

The attack eastward began to move into 
the airfield area as early as 1440. 19 An air 
attack on the defenses at Canary Strong 
Point, south of the middle of the airfield, 
was not thought safe because of the pres- 
ence of American troops within 500 yards 
of the target. Artillery fire, however, was 
heavy; 300 rounds of 105-mm. and 155- 
mm. artillery fire from Carlson Island was 
delivered between 1405 and 1425. Com- 
pany A, 32d Infantry, remained tempo- 

17 RCT 32 Jnl, 1 Feb 44,Msg 104. 

18 7th Inf Div FO 2, Opns Map, Phase II. 

19 RCT 32 Jnl, 1 Feb 44, Msg 92; RCT 184 Jnl, 
01 1442 Feb 44, 01 1550 Feb 44; 7th Inf Div Arty Rpt, 
Jnl, 1 Feb 44, Msg 99. 



REDUCTION OF THE MAIN DEFENSES OF KWAJALEIN ISLAND 



247 



rarily near the south end of Wilma Road, 
mopping up enemy positions, while Com- 
pany B pushed forward about 100 yards 
beyond the road. Company C, after pass- 
ing through the western dispersal area, 
continued eastward into the wooded area 
between the airstrips, well into the zone of 
the 184th Regiment. 20 

The progress of the 1st Battalion, 32d, 
from Wilma Road along the ocean side of 
the island continued to be somewhat more 
rapid than that of the 3d Battalion, 184th, 
in its zone. Company B, 32d Infantry, met 
only scattered resistance during its first 
two hundred yards of advance, while Com- 
panies L and I, 184th, ran at once upon 
large underground shelters and defenses 
as well as rifle fire. Moreover, a fuel dump 
that had been ignited by artillery fire from 
Carlson Island exploded and temporarily 
barred the 184th's advance. 21 

Any attempt of the enemy to reinforce 
his troops already in the wooded strip be- 
tween the lagoon and Will Road was pre- 
vented by a creeping barrage along Will 
Road and by a concentration from 155- 
mm. howitzers upon an assembly of Japa- 
nese troops observed near the northeastern 
end of the island. 22 Organized enemy re- 
sistance to the 3d Battalion, 184th, was 
also forestalled by sixty rounds from the 
57th Field Artillery Battalion, dropped on 
a nearer concentration of the enemy forces 
between the airfield and the lagoon. 23 

At 1525, Company L, 184th Infantry, 
was reported to be two hundred yards east 
of Wilma Road, while Company I of the 
same regiment was at the northwestern 
corner of the airfield. 24 On the right, Com- 
pany C, 32d Infantry, had moved into the 
wooded panel between the airstrips, pur- 
suing a few of the withdrawing enemy. 
Company B, 32d Infantry, pushed through 
the ruined concrete-mixing plant and the 



other debris at Worden Strong Point, leav- 
ing the mopping up of all bunkers to Com- 
pany A. Company B then moved forward 
against Canary Strong Point, preceded by 
an artillery preparation that commenced 
at 1515. By 1540 friendly troops were so 
close to the target that artillery fire had to 
be discontinued. 

At 1525 Company B, 32d Infantry, was 
ordered to hold while Company E of the 
2d Battalion passed through and com- 
menced reducing the defensive positions in 
the western section of Canary Strong Point. 
Some of these positions, which extended 
along each side of Wallace Road, were de- 
fended by Japanese who ducked and 
crawled through rubble heaps and bunkers 
in such a way that Lt. John L. Young, 
commanding Company E, became con- 
vinced that they were using connecting 
tunnels. For an hour the fighting persisted, 
but not more than ten enemy dead could 
be counted above ground. 25 

Company E continued through a litter 
of small works, moving so slowly that it 
was necessary to commit Company F, 
which undertook a flanking movement at 
the left. The maneuver was intended to cut 
the strong point off, but the company 
promptly ran into fire that slowed its ad- 
vance to about fifty yards in thirty min- 
utes. It then became clear that the whole 
movement had been stopped. The attack 
was consequently broken off at 1800 and 
defensive positions were organized for the 
night. 26 At 1820 the 32d Regimental Com- 

20 RCT 32 Jnl, Msg 82; Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, 
Vol. I, p. 16. 

21 7th Inf Div Arty Rpt, Jnl, 1 Feb 44, Msg 98; 
Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, p. 95. 

22 7th Inf Div Arty Rpt, Jnl, 1 Feb 44, Msgs 95, 
101. 

23 Ibid., Msg 102. 

24 BLT 184-3 Rpt, p. 2. 

25 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, pp. 16-17. 

26 Ibid., p. 17. 



248 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 




KOREAN LABORERS, captured on Kwajalein, point out the location of enemy positions on 
a map. 



bat Team casualties were reported at seven 
dead and twenty-three wounded. 27 

In the 184th Regiment's zone, the attack 
stopped at 1700, when Company L ar- 
rived at the western edge of a group of 
ruined storage buildings that extended as 
far as the H Docks (Center Pier). 28 De- 
fensive perimeters were prepared. The 
day's casualties in the 184th's 3d Battalion 
were reported to be ten killed and thirteen 
wounded. 29 

The enemy losses on Kwajalein at the 
close of the day's fighting were estimated 
at five hundred killed and eleven captured. 
Approximately 450 of the dead Japanese 
counted were in the zone of the 184th, and 
this regiment also was responsible for the 
capture of ten of the eleven prisoners 
taken. 30 



Of course, a large share of the enemy 
casualties must be attributed to the heavy 
bombardment from ships and aircraft and 
from artillery based on Carlson. Estimates 
made by assault troops and by others, in- 
cluding doctors following the assault, in- 
dicated that the preparatory bombard- 
ment caused from 50 to 75 percent of all 
Japanese casualties on Kwajalein Island. 
These estimates probably run high, but 
there can be no doubt that the preliminary 
fire, especially from ships' guns and shore- 
based artillery, was exceptionally effec- 
tive. 31 



27 RCT 32 Jnl, 1 Feb 44, Msg 134. 

28 BLT 184-3 Rpt, p. 2; Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, 
Vol. I, p. 96. 

29 RCT 184 Jul, 011745 Feb 44. 

30 RCT 32 Jnl, 1 Feb 44, Msgs 134, 142a, 1476. 

31 Col Claudius H. M. Roberts et al., Report on 



REDUCTION OF THE MAIN DEFENSES OF KWAJALEIN ISLAND 



249 



The first day's field artillery operations, 
however, were not without cost to the 
American units involved. When Battery 
C, 145th Field Artillery, fired its first 
round, one gun had a premature burst of a 
fuzed projectile, causing two casualties. 
A few minutes later, a muzzle burst in Bat- 
tery A occurred, seriously wounding five 
men. Not long afterward, just after 1000, 
the principal air observer, Gapt. George 
W. Tysen, USN, and his pilot, Ensign Wil- 
liam J. Sayers, USNR, in a spotting plane 
from Minneapolis flew below the safety level 
into a curtain of artillery shells from Carl- 
son Island. The plane was struck and de- 
stroyed in mid-air. 32 

The two forward battalions established 
defensive perimeters that crossed the ter- 
rain on each side of the airfield but then 
looped westward along its edges and joined 
in the dispersal area near Wilma Road. In 
the northern zone Companies L and I, 
184th Infantry, shared the most advanced 
position, with Company L on the left. 
Company K, except for one platoon sent 
to support Company L, extended along 
Will Road and linked the two forward 
companies with those of the 2d Battalion, 
184th, east of Wilma Road. 33 In the south- 
ern zone, Company F, 32d Infantry, alone 
held the forward line from the ocean beach 
to the southern edge of the landing strip. 
The remainder of 2d Battalion, 32d, took 
up positions west and northwest of Com- 
pany F. Three antitank guns were set up at 
equal intervals, interspersed with machine 
guns, in Company F's easterly line. The 
men were well dug in, two or three men to 
a foxhole. 34 



Kwajalein and Eniwetok Operations, 14 Mar 44 
(hereafter cited as Roberts Report), pp. 34ff. The 
Roberts Mission was sent to the Marshalls to evaluate 
the effect of both U.S. and enemy weapons and re- 
port its findings to General Richardson. 



Between the southernmost position of 
Company I, 184th Infantry, and the north- 
ernmost position of Company F, 32d In- 
fantry, the width of the landing strip inter- 
vened; moreover, Company F's line lay 
about 250 yards farther east than that of 
Company I. The wide gap was devoid of 
cover for either defending or attacking 
troops, but to guard against the possibility 
of infiltration, Company C was again sent 
forward early in the morning of 2 Febru- 
ary to guard the area. 35 

The First Night on Kwajalein Island 

When darkness fell on Kwajalein Island 
after the first day of battle, the front lines 
crossed the island at points more than one 
fourth of the distance from the landing 
beaches to the northeastern tip. Six infan- 
try battalions were ashore, supported by 
four tank companies (forty-four medium 
and eighteen light tanks were operative), 
five self-propelled 75-mm. guns, and two 
platoons of 4.2-inch chemical mortars. The 
two Red Beaches had been fully organ- 
ized, cleared of enemy explosives, graded 
by bulldozers, and linked with the island's 
road system. Shell holes in the highways 
had been filled, debris removed, and sup- 
ply points established. Command posts 
were established in each battalion area, 
and regimental command posts were set 
up about fifty yards inland, near the 
northern limits of each of the two beaches. 
The 13th Engineer Battalion had its com- 
mand post near that of the 184th Infantry, 
while the 767th Tank Battalion's was a 
hundred yards east of Red Beach 2. 36 

32 7th Inf Div Arty Rptjnl, 1 Feb 44, Msgs 21,31, 
32; TF 51 Marshalls Rpt, Incl A, p. 6. 

33 BLT 184-3 Rpt, 1 Feb 44, p. 1. 

34 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, pp. 17-18. 

35 Ibid., p. 18. 

36 7th Inf Div Flintlock Rpt, Vol. VII, G-4 Rpt, 
Annex B, p. 3; 767th Tk Bn Jnl, 1 Feb 44, pp. 4-5. 



250 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 




105-MM. HOWITZER CREW IN ACTION on Carlson Island. 



In the lagoon, the destroyer Sigsbee was 
stationed to furnish searchlight illumina- 
tion of a zone crossing the island at the 
eastern end of the airfield. It was sched- 
uled to light the area during the first half 
of each hour. 37 Provision was made for 
harassing fire to be delivered into the areas 
east and north of the illuminated zone 
from the divisional artillery on Carlson 
Island, the regimental Cannon Compa- 
nies, and the twelve mortars of the 91st 
Chemical Company. 38 

While the men were being soaked by a 
chill rain in the perimeter foxholes and in 
bivouac areas nearer the landing beaches, 
plans for the next day's operations were 
reviewed at the regimental command post. 
Intelligence from prisoners and from 
enemy documents indicated that about 
1,500 Japanese remained alive on Kwaja- 
lein Island. Contrary to an earlier estimate 



that only small arms and light machine 
guns remained, the enemy was known to 
be able still to use some artillery, although 
his heavier 5-inch guns had been de- 
stroyed. 39 

Despite a hard day, the divisional artil- 
lery batteries on Carlson prepared for the 
night's action. During the day they had 
fired 20,949 rounds of 105-mm. and 759 
rounds of 155-mm. shells, most of them 
during the artillery preparation from 0800 
to 12 00. 40 A strong wind had swept the 
smoke and dust away from the guns and 

37 TF 51 Marshall* Rpt, Incl A, p. 6. 
38 RCT 184 Rpt, p. 2. 

39 RCT 184 Jnl, 012400 Feb 44. 

40 These figures are calculated from the 7th Inf Div 
Arty Jnl, 1 Feb 44, Msg 134, which lists rounds ex- 
pended between shorter intervals than those of the 
Southern Artillery Report. For 1 February 1944, the 
latter gives the figures for 1 55-mm. as 873 and for 
105-mm. as 28,120 rounds between 0600 on 1 Feb- 
ruary and 0600 on 2 February 1944. 



REDUCTION OF THE MAIN DEFENSES OF KWAJALEIN ISLAND 



251 



cooled the crews as they maintained a rate 
of fire of from three to four rounds per 
minute. Cooks, clerks, and drivers par- 
ticipated as ammunition handlers, while 
the guns were manned by teams of eight, 
permitting rest periods for three or four 
men at a time. The crews broke open pal- 
lets and passed tons of ammunition. "The 
men can stand more than the guns," said 
Lt. Col. George D. Preston, commanding 
the 145th Field Artillery. 41 

The 49th and 57th Field Artillery Bat- 
talions prepared to deliver night barrages 
east of the battalions that they were sup- 
porting. The 2d Battalion, 32d Infantry, 
had reached an area dangerously near 
that on which the guns of the 57th Field 
Artillery had registered in front of the 
184th less than an hour earlier, and that 
artillery battalion had to swing its fire 
closer to the lagoon and farther from the 
184th's night perimeter. The 32d's late 
advance also delayed, until twilight, the 
registration of the 49th. The first shells 
from the 49th Field Artillery's preparatory 
fire fell among troops of the 32d Infantry. 
After the 49th's range had been corrected, 
however, later barrages were repeatedly 
requested during the night. A total of 
4,556 rounds was expended by the unit 
between 1800 and 0600. 42 

Naval gunfire on 1 February totaled 
6,574 rounds of which 1,342 were 14-inch 
shells from four battleships, 397 rounds 
were 8-inch projectiles from three cruisers, 
and 4,835 rounds were 5-inch shells fired 
from battleships, cruisers, and five destroy- 
ers. In addition to the fire preparatory to 
landing, naval guns were repeatedly em- 
ployed in close support of the infantry ad- 
vance as it moved up Kwajalein Island. 43 

As the day's advance had entered the 
last stage, General Corlett and the rear 
echelon of his staff moved ashore to the 
command post on Carlson Island previ- 



ously held by the advance party under 
General Ready. 44 General Holland Smith, 
commanding the V Amphibious Corps, 
remained aboard the flagship Rocky Mount 
with Admiral Turner. 

During the day's operations the enemy 
had fought primarily from underground 
shelters and pillboxes. A few large bunkers 
and interconnected positions had delayed 
the advance until details "peeled off" to 
dispose of them while the remainder of the 
American line continued forward. Certain 
positions thought to have been wiped out 
by grenades, flame throwers, and high- 
explosive charges or projectiles remained 
quiet for hours, only to have surviving oc- 
cupants recover and resume the battle by 
any means remaining to them. Those Jap- 
anese who fired rifles from trees or under- 
brush were relatively few and scattered. 
The organized resistance that occasionally 
developed in the open had provided a 
series of skirmishes for small details work- 
ing with the tanks but had resulted in no 
large-scale encounters. 

After dark, however, a large number of 
the enemy emerged from bunkers and air 
raid shelters and tried to disrupt the in- 
vading force by a series of counterattacks 
upon the forward perimeters. Individual 
enemy riflemen and machine gun squads 
sought to infiltrate along the flanks of the 
American line or between the two regi- 
ments. To the men in the foxholes it was 
a long night full of action and confusion. 45 

At the northern tip of the island, three 
enemy dual-purpose guns continued in 
action, dropping shells at various points 

41 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. Ill, p. 26. 

42 7th Inf Div Arty Rpt, Jnl, 1 Feb 44, Msgs 137, 
1 38, and 2 Feb 44, Msg 43 ; 49th FA Bn AAR, p. 3. 

43 TF 51 Marshalls Rpt, Incl E, App 1, p. 3. 

44 7th Inf Div Flintlock Rpt, Vol. Ill, 7th Inf Div 
G-l Rpt, Annex VIII, p. 2; Ibid., Vol. VI, 7th Inf 
Div G-3 Jnl, 1 Feb 44, Msg 111. 

45 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, p. 97. 



252 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



near the Red Beaches. Japanese mortars, 
which had registered along the northern 
end of Will Road late in the afternoon, 
struck repeatedly during the night. 46 The 
enemy directed an antiaircraft gun, 
mounted on Nob Pier, against the destroy- 
er Sigsbee to suppress the searchlight illu- 
mination it was furnishing. When the de- 
stroyer succeeded in silencing the gun, 
another was brought to bear from the same 
position, and when that was knocked out, 
enemy artillery on Burton Island tried un- 
successfully to hit Sigsbee. Though it seemed 
to annoy the Japanese, illumination by 
searchlight did not serve the needs of the 
infantry as well as did flares and star shells 
closer to their front lines. 47 

Naval gunfire from the lagoon, and the 
division and regimental artillery deprived 
the Japanese of any opportunity to deliver 
blows with great force. Nevertheless, they 
were able to mount a series of counterat- 
tacks covered in part by their own sporadic 
artillery and mortar fire. A number of 
these were broken up by American artil- 
lery while still in the preparatory stages, 
but several had to be repulsed by the in- 
fantry in close-range fighting. 48 

In addition to concerted attacks, the 
Japanese tried persistently to infiltrate in 
small groups. In the 32d Regiment's zone, 
flares over the ground in front of Company 
F revealed the enemy to the Americans, 
but enough got through to justify a warn- 
ing order to the 1st Battalion, 32d, to be 
ready to come to the support of the 2d Bat- 
talion. From the panel between the air- 
strips, intermittent enemy machine gun 
fire from the flank passed over the forward 
troops, most of it too high to do any dam- 
age. 49 Similar tactics in the 184th's zone 
brought Japanese riflemen deep within the 
American lines. One Japanese was killed 
by a sentry as far west as the message cen- 



ter on Wolf Point, near the northern end 
of Red Beach l. 50 

One attack almost attained the propor- 
tions of a successful break-through in the 
American defenses but was not exploited 
by the enemy, either because of ignorance 
of his opportunity or because of insufficient 
strength. This attack was launched against 
the 3d Battalion, 184th Infantry, and 
started at about 0130. 51 During a heavy 
rain squall in the last hour before mid- 
night, the Japanese had moved back into 
positions that they had vacated in the 
afternoon. They had located Company L's 
machine guns in the course of an earlier as- 
sault, and proceeded to lay down a dense 
concentration of light mortar fire on the 
portion of Company L's line nearest to the 
lagoon. Three mortar shells fell directly on 
the heavy machine gun position, wound- 
ing several men and killing one. A light 
machine gun went out of operation near- 
by, and the remainder of the 1st Platoon, 
Company L, was forced into a temporary, 
hasty withdrawal. While some of the en- 
emy infiltrated through this gap and 
struck the left of the 2d Platoon, the heavy 
machine gun in the center of that part of 
Company L's line was swung to the left 
and fired over the previous location of the 
1st Platoon. By this fire on the Japanese 
flank, a machine gun was silenced and 
Will Road was closed to the enemy. 

While the 1st Platoon withdrew, a call 
for reinforcements and a resupply of am- 

46 RGT 184 Jnl, 01 1800 Feb 44; Marshall, Kwaja- 
lein Notes, Vol. I, p. 18. 

47 TF 51 Marshalls Rpt, Incl E, App 2, p. 8. 

48 BLT 184-3 Rpt, p. 3; 7th Inf Div Flintlock 
Rpt, Vol. IX, RGT 32 Rpt of Opns, BLT 32-2 Jnl, 
012355, 020320 Feb 44. 

49 RGT 32 Jnl, 1 Feb 44, Msg 149c, and 2 Feb 44, 
Msgs 1, 2. 

50 RGT 184 Rpt, S-l Rpt, 9 Feb 44, p. 1. 

51 RGT 184 Jnl, 020137 Feb 44; Marshall, Kwaja- 
lein Notes, Vol. I, pp. 97-98. 



REDUCTION OF THE MAIN DEFENSES OF KWAJALEIN ISLAND 



253 



munition had been sent to the regimental 
command post. Company C, 184th Infan- 
try, was sent forward but the thin lines 
were restored even before the reinforce- 
ments had arrived. The two machine gun 
sections of Company C were placed at the 
extremities of the 1st Platoon line with the 
rifle platoons in supporting positions. From 
division artillery heavy fire was sent into 
the area directly in front of Company L, 
starting at 0158, and the immediate threat 
of a break-through in this area was fore- 
stalled. 52 

During the early hours of morning, en- 
emy offensive action dwindled to occa- 
sional harassing fire. Just before dawn, 
mortar fire hit one of the machine gun 
crews that had come forward as reinforce- 
ment to Company L, 184th Infantry, caus- 
ing six casualties. 53 About 0600 steps were 
being taken for the day's attack by the 2d 
Battalion, 32d Infantry, when another 
shell fell squarely beneath one of the anti- 
tank guns in Company F's line killing two, 
wounding one, and disabling the gun. 54 

The 3d Battalion, 184th, was to be re- 
lieved at the end of this first dismal night 
on Kwajalein. It had sustained casualties 
of 14 killed and 54 wounded for the entire 
period of its fighting on the island/' 5 The 
2d Battalion of the same regiment was 
ordered to move through the 3d's forward 
positions and take up the attack. In the 
3 2d regimental zone, the 2d Battalion was 
to continue in the line. Fresh troops would 
relieve that unit later in the morning. 

Second Day's Action 

The second day's action on Kwajalein 
Island required more co-operation be- 
tween the two regimental combat teams 
than had been necessary on the previous 
day. General Corlett had ordered the two 



assault regiments to launch a co-ordinated 
attack at 07 15. The 32d Regiment on the 
right, with Company A, 767th Tank Bat- 
talion, attached, was to drive rapidly to the 
northern tip of the island. The 184th Regi- 
ment, with Company B, 767th Tank Battal- 
ion, attached, was to push hard on the left, 
breach fortified positions, assist the ad- 
vance of the 32d Infantry across the tank 
trap and push rapidly to the end of the 
island. Division artillery was ordered to 
support the attack by a fifteen-minute 
preparation commencing at 0700 and 
thereafter by successive concentrations. 
Artillery was to cease fire during a sched- 
uled twenty-minute air strike by naval 
planes to commence at 0800. 513 

Following the preparatory fire, in which 
the battleship Idaho, the cruiser Minneapolis, 
four destroyers, and five field artillery bat- 
talions on Carlson participated, the attack 
opened. The 2d Battalion, 184th Infantry, 
passed through the 3d Battalion of the 
same regiment during the hour after 0715, 
Company E on the left and Company F on 
the right. Company G followed about 150 
yards behind as a mopping-up force, while 
the 1st Battalion came on in close support. 
Each company of the leading battalion 
was strengthened by one section of heavy 
machine guns, one 37-mm. antitank gun, 
five medium tanks, and two light tanks. 57 

On the other side of the island, as the 2d 
Battalion, 32d Infantry, began to advance, 



7th Inf Div Arty Rpt, Jnl, 2 Feb 44, Msg 6; BLT 
184-1 Rpt, p. 4. 

51 BLT 184-1 Rpt, p. 5. 

54 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, p. 18. 

55 Ibid., Vol. I, p. 98. 

56 7th Inf Div Flintlock Rpt, Vol. II, FO 3, 1 Feb 
44. 

57 7th Inf Div Flintlock Rpt, Vol. XI, RCT 184 
Rpt of Opns, BLT 184-2 Rpt of Opns (hereafter cited 
as BLT 184-2 Rpt), pp. 3-4; TF 51 Marshalls Rpt, 
Incl E, App 2, pp. 8-9; Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, 
Vol. I, pp. 98-99. 



254 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 




37-MM. ANTITANK GUN FIRING on an enemy strongpoint. 



enemy dual-purpose gun and mortar fire 
struck the leading elements, killing two 
men and wounding one. At 0800 fifteen 
dive bombers commenced their scheduled 
strike against the area in which the dual- 
purpose guns had been observed from the 
air, and the battalion pushed forward with 
its tanks according to plan. Company G 
was in front, with Company E in close sup- 
port and Company F in reserve. 58 

Occupation of the Airfield Is Completed 

The first stage of the second day's action 
would bring the leading battalions to the 
eastern end of the airfield. 59 Carl Road 
crossed the island there, approximately 
800 yards east of the 32d Regiment's start- 
ing line and 1,000 yards east of the 184th's. 
The zone to be covered by the 2d Battal- 



ion, 32d, contained the westerly portion of 
Canary Strong Point, just short of which 
the battalion had spent the night, and all 
of Cat Strong Point, some 500 yards far- 
ther along the ocean shore. The dense 
vegetation between the shore and Wallace 
Road and the taller coconut palms be- 
tween the road and the southern edge of 
the airfield had been badly blasted and 
burned by the bombardment, but they 
were less thoroughly flattened than those 
at the western end of the island. The tank 
trap given such prominence in the divi- 
sion's field orders cut left diagonally across 
Carl Road in front of the 32d Infantry, but 



58 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, p. 18. 

59 Terrain description is based on operations map 
and aerial photographs now in files of OCMH. The 
description of the defenses is also based on the map 
and photographs as corrected by JICPOA Bull 48-44. 



REDUCTION OF THE MAIN DEFENSES OF KWAJALEIN ISLAND 



255 



most of its length was in the area beyond 
the road. 

Because of the northward curve of the 
island, the area between the airfield and 
the ocean narrowed quite sharply at the 
end of the airfield nearest Carl Road, and 
the regimental boundary down the middle 
of the island cut diagonally across the air- 
field's eastern end. Near Carl Road the 
wider portion of the 32d's zone was thus 
open ground, consisting of the end of the 
landing strip and part of the dispersal 
space just north of it. The 184th Infan- 
try's zone of advance for several hundred 
yards ranged from the northern edge of 
the landing strip to the lagoon. The cen- 
tral, wooded panel between airstrips was 
at the right; next was the dispersal strip, 
which curved southward at the far end; to 
its north was the wooded area between the 
airfield and Will Road; and between the 
road and the lagoon beach was a curving 
belt about seventy-five to a hundred yards 
wide in which, commencing in the area of 
Center Pier, there was a continuous series 
of buildings. Although bombardment and 
air strikes had wrecked the docks and de- 
stroyed most of the buildings and a direct 
hit during the naval bombardment of 30 
January had sent an ammunition dump 
skyward with devastating results in a wide 
area near the base of the docks, a number 
of active gun positions had been spotted 
along the lagoon. Also, in the area near 
Carl Road, where the thickly wooded strip 
between the dispersal strip and Will Road 
greatly widened, some enemy resistance 
might be expected. 

It was thought, as the battalions jumped 
off toward Carl Road for the first phase of 
the second day's attack, that the 184th 
could expect more difficulty than the 32d, 
unless Cat Strong Point proved to be for- 
midable. Enemy riflemen who had taken 



positions behind the advanced perimeters 
of the 3d Battalion, 184th, fired on the 2d 
Battalion as it passed through the 3d. Re- 
turn fire carried past them and some of it 
fell among the 3d Battalion, causing four 
casualties. 60 By 0816 the entire 2d Battal- 
ion had passed the 3d's advanced posi- 
tions. 61 

At first the advance of the 2d Battalion 
was cautious as the men felt their way for- 
ward, but after they began to familiarize 
themselves with the terrain ahead they 
pushed forward rapidly. Scattered enemy 
points of resistance were encountered, 
mostly small pillboxes, sometimes with in- 
terconnecting trenches but with no shel- 
ters. The positions on the lagoon shore had 
been mostly knocked out by the artillery. 
The assault waves advanced about two 
hundred yards before they came into a 
perimeter of heavy sniper fire from an area 
that was still studded with trees and under- 
brush in spite of the preparatory bombard- 
ment. Snipers worked from behind rubble 
heaps and from the ruins of old buildings, 
but the effect was more harassing than 
deadly. 62 

By 0900 the advance of the leading com- 
panies had passed the H Docks and was 
continuing. The 1st Battalion was closely 
following the assault, mopping up rear 
areas and eliminating snipers. In the as- 
sault waves the medium tanks and infan- 
try advanced abreast. Tanks sprayed the 
treetops with their .30-caliber machine 
gun fire, coming to a stop when it was 
necessary to turn their 75-mm. guns 
against pillboxes. The standard procedure 
when one of these positions was encoun- 
tered was for the tank to advance up to the 

60 BLT 184-2 Rpt, p. 61; RCT 184 Jnl, 020732 Feb 
44. 

61 RCT 184 Jnl, 020816 Feb 44. 

62 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, p. 99. 



256 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



pillbox with two or three infantrymen cov- 
ering it and one tankman on the ground 
guiding his vehicle. The tank ordinarily 
then took its position so that its machine 
gun could cover the entrance to the pillbox 
while the 75-mm. gun fired at the wall. 
Frequently while this action was taking 
place the infantry wave bypassed the struc- 
ture and continued beating the ground 
ahead. By 1040 these maneuvers had suc- 
ceeded so well that Companies E and F 
were across Carl Road. As of 1030 the 
advance had cost twenty-five casualties. 63 
On the opposite shore of the island, the 
2d Battalion, 32d Infantry, met greater dif- 
ficulties, although it did reach Carl Road 
at the same time as the 184th. Shortly after 
the strafing attack carried out by naval 
planes from 0800 to 0820, Company G 
came across an unexpected tank ditch run- 
ning from the landing strip to Wallace 
Road. To avoid this obstruction, the ac- 
companying tanks swung wide left to go 
along the airstrip, thus exposing the infan- 
trymen to fire from a pillbox on the left. 
Two of the tanks attempted to silence this 
position, but failed to do so and moved on 
toward the airstrip. Three more tanks 
came along and joined the fusilade, which 
continued for fifteen minutes. Finally, 
Capt. Albert W. Pence of Company G 
succeeded in establishing contact with his 
supporting tanks and in a few minutes the 
infantrymen had the position under con- 
trol. 64 

That part of Company G that was mov- 
ing along the ocean shore had relatively 
little trouble, but the platoon on the left 
ran into considerable organized resistance 
in the form of riflemen working from trees 
and shallow fire trenches and of automatic 
fire from strongly revetted pillboxes. The 
positions backed up those along the ocean 
front, and while the latter were the more 



conspicuous, the former were the more 
deadly. It took two hours of fighting for 
Company G to advance two hundred 
yards through this belt of works with the 
aid of tanks and engineer demolition crews. 
By 0926 they had reached the end of 
Canary Strong Point. 

The 2d Battalion then moved on rapidly 
until it reached the perimeter of fire from 
Cat Strong Point where its earlier experi- 
ence was repeated. Once more it became 
evident that the beach positions were the 
outer crust and not the core of resistance. 
They yielded readily and the right platoon 
advanced well ahead of the left. But in- 
land from the road were well-concealed 
tiers of defensive works which, in spite of 
the artillery fire, were still capable of 
action. Not until 1020 was Cat Strong 
Point finally cleared on the right, and not 
until 1040 did the left platoon finally reach 
Carl Road abreast of the 184th Infantry. 65 

The Area of the Main Tank Trap 

Upon crossing Carl Road, the two regi- 
ments began the second stage of their at- 
tack of 2 February. A section between Carl 
Road and Nora Road, some three hun- 
dred yards farther along the island, was to 
be traversed. Will Road continued to par- 
allel the lagoon beach. Wallace Road, at 
a point a hundred yards beyond Carl 
Road, swung left away from the ocean for 
a hundred yards to join Nora Road, thus 
narrowing the distance between Will and 
Wallace Roads. 

A deep tank trap lay immediately before 
the 32d Infantry. The longer section of this 
trap ran for two hundred yards straight 

63 BLT 184-2 Rpt, p. 4. 

64 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, p. 19. 

65 RCT 32 Jnl, 2 Feb 44, Msgs 30, 31, 32, 33; Mar- 
shall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, p. 19. 



REDUCTION OF THE MAIN DEFENSES OF KWAJALEIN ISLAND 



257 



east from Carl Road to the bend in Wal- 
lace Road; and, from the other side of the 
highway at that point, a shorter section 
extended for ninety yards south to the 
ocean beach. Just beyond the angle of the 
trap, between the long bend in Wallace 
Road and the ocean shore and short of the 
Nora Road line, lay one of the most ex- 
tensive and elaborately organized sets of 
defensive positions on the island. Desig- 
nated as Corn Strong Point, it extended 
inland to a depth of about a hundred yards 
and was believed to contain three pillboxes 
and an open artillery position, both near 
the beach, and up to seven machine gun 
emplacements inland. These positions 
were interspersed with storage pits and 
antitank trenches. 

North of the main tank trap a long rifle 
trench ran in an irregular line across the 
island diagonally from Corn Strong Point 
to a point near the junction of Carl Road 
with Will Road. The 184th Infantry had 
come upon its northern extremity just be- 
fore reaching the Carl Road line. The 
trench, with a connected loop in the mid- 
dle of the island, extended through most 
of the ground to be covered by the 184th's 
right elements. It was clear that the long 
rifle trench, the tank trap, and the asso- 
ciated gun emplacements of Corn Strong 
Point were intended to be the main defense 
system obstructing movement from the 
western part of Kwajalein Island, contain- 
ing the airfield, into the northeastern por- 
tion, containing most of the installations. 
Along this line the Japanese were expected 
to make their most determined stand. 

For the initial assault on the tank trap 
and Corn Strong Point, the 32d Infantry's 
3d Battalion was ordered to pass through 
its 2d Battalion at Carl Road and to lead 
the attack. These fresh troops were to be 
supported by the tanks of Companies A 



and D, 767th Tank Battalion and, from 
the left flank, by the tanks of Company B, 
which would be temporarily detached 
from the 184th. 66 Preparatory and sup- 
porting fire from the artillery on Carlson 
Island and from the 32d's Cannon Com- 
pany in Wart Area was to be co-ordinated 
with the tank and infantry movements. 
While the new assault units were moving 
up, the enemy in Corn Strong Point was 
kept under heavy artillery bombardment 
and was isolated from possible reinforce- 
ment by naval gunfire. 67 Enemy guns that 
were still active in the northeastern end of 
the island were struck by dive bombers. 
The jump-off was ordered for 1245. 

A series of delays deferred this crucial 
attack over an hour. To assemble the staff 
and co-ordinate the plans for employing 
tanks, artillery, and infantry while the 3d 
Battalion made its approach march, 
proved difficult to arrange. The time for 
the assault had passed before the planning 
difficulties were resolved. Then came 
notice of an air strike to be made at 1315 — 
later postponed, on Admiral Turner's 
order, to 1330 — thus necessitating the sus- 
pension of all artillery fire. 68 Since the at- 
tack on Corn Strong Point was to be im- 
mediately preceded by a heavy artillery 
barrage, the whole operation was post- 
poned to 1400. 

The tanks of Company A, 767th Tank 
Battalion, lined up along Carl Road to 
fire against the strong point, while those 
from Company B took positions almost at 
right angles to that road and prepared to 
strike the enemy from the left flank during 
the first stage of the attack. One of the bat- 
teries on Carlson continued to fire during 



66 RCT 32 Jnl, 2 Feb 44, Msg 34a; 7th Inf Div FO 
2, Opns Map, Phase II. 

67 RCT 32 Jnl, p. 121. 

68 Ibid., Msgs 37, 43. 



258 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



the air strike, and the Cannon Company's 
howitzers also laid a preparation on the 
target area before the advance commenced 
at 1400. 69 Then, while the artillery lifted 
fire to ground northeast of the target, the 
tanks and infantry approached the tank 
trap in a 225-yard advance across open 
ground. The tanks poured machine gun 
fire into the area. Thirty yards behind 
them the troops came forward to the shel- 
ter of the tank ditch without receiving an 
enemy shot. The Japanese were pinned 
down. 70 

While the left wing of infantry troops 
started to push across the wide tank bar- 
rier, the tanks on their left momentarily 
broke off fire from the flank. A few tanks 
from Company A, 767th Tank Battalion, 
moved toward the ocean to bypass the 
deep ditch, and the others after a brief 
hesitation laid a base of fire to cover the 
infantry's advance. The tanks hesitated to 
poke out along the flimsy wooden bridge 
by which Wallace Road cut through the 
angle of the tank trap. 

At this stage, a concentration of white 
phosphorus shells commenced to fall into 
the area in which Company I, 32d Infan- 
try, was moving, and some two score of the 
men were burned. After hesitating briefly 
the infantry moved steadily to the tank 
ditch. 

There the troops remained for some 
time because the medium tanks pulled 
back claiming they could not get over the 
ditch. This impasse was finally broken 
when two light and two medium tanks 
made their way along the ocean beach 
around the right end of the ditch and took 
the pillboxes in Corn Strong Point under 
fire. The infantry wave then pushed for- 
ward and with the aid of engineers pro- 
ceeded to destroy that strong point in de- 
tail. There were no American casualties. 
An estimated hundred Japanese were 



killed in the area, the majority by demoli- 
tion charges carried forward by engineer 
details while rifle and BAR men covered 
them. Little or no defense was put up 
against these tactics. The Japanese re- 
mained huddled in their shelters in spite 
of efforts made to coax them out to sur- 
render. Only one prisoner was taken in the 
whole area. Grenades were thrown into 
the shelters, and those who survived were 
then destroyed by demolition charges. Al- 
together, it took about thirty-five minutes 
to reduce Corn Strong Point once the 
American infantry got beyond the tank 
trap. 71 

Contact between the forward battalion 
of the 32d Infantry and that of the 184th 
was temporarily lost during this fray, and 
Company K, 32d Infantry, moved through 
the left platoon of Company I to establish 
the contact firmly as soon as Corn Strong 
Point was taken. Advance to the Nora 
Road line seemed practicable within the 
time remaining before taking defensive 
positions for the night. To escape spending 
the night in an area too heavily wooded for 
security, the 3d Battalion, 32d Infantry, 
planned to advance northeast of the junc- 
tion of Nora Road and Wallace Road, 
even though that would place its perimeter 
slightly forward of the 184th's front-line 
elements, which were resting just short of 
Nora Road itself. 72 

Meanwhile, the 2d Battalion, 184th, 
had crossed Carl Road before 1040 but 
was held up until 1245 in order to advance 

69 7th Inf Div Arty Rpt, Jnl, 2 Feb 44, Msgs 91, 99, 
100, 101, 104, 108. According to this journal, all bat- 
talions ceased fire between 1327 and 1407; however, 
at 1350 the 32d Infantry's journal records that the 
49th Field Artillery Battalion had continued to fi»e 
during the air strike. See also Marshall, Kwajalein 
Notes, Vol. I, p. 20. 

70 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, p. 20. 

71 RGT 32 Jnl, 2 Feb 44, p. 128; Marshall, Kwa- 
jalein Notes, Vol. I, p. 21. 

72 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, p. 21. 



REDUCTION OF THE MAIN DEFENSES OF KWAJALEIN ISLAND 



259 



evenly with the 32d. At that time it moved 
out with Company F on the right and 
Company E on the left along the lagoon. 
For the first forty-five minutes no serious 
resistance was met. There was no tank ob- 
stacle in the area and the enemy's positions 
along the lagoon shore were less formi- 
dable than had been expected. At 1330, 
however, the 184th had to lend its me- 
dium tanks to the 32d Infantry as the lat- 
ter moved against Corn Strong Point. This 
left the infantry unprotected at a time 
when they began to meet their first serious 
resistance. The tanks returned about an 
hour later but were so low on ammunition 
and fuel that they had to be sent back to 
Wolf Strong Point for resupply. Without 
this tank support the infantry advance was 
stalled. Altogether, the 184th suffered over 
sixty casualties by the end of the day, in- 
cluding the loss of Company F's command- 
ing officer. At 1630 Company G was sent 
forward to relieve Company F. 73 

When the time arrived to organize night 
defenses, the forward perimeter of the 
184th, instead of being located on Nora 
Road as planned, was withdrawn to a line 
only seventy-five to a hundred yards 
northeast of Carl Road. 74 This necessi- 
tated an even greater withdrawal on the 
part of the 32d Regiment. From a line 
well beyond Nora Road the 3d Battalion, 
32d, fell back to another somewhat short 
of the road and took positions in the aban- 
doned trenches and shell craters of Corn 
Strong Point. The line bent westerly from 
Wallace Road to reach the regimental 
boundary at a point about a hundred 
yards beyond the main portion held by the 
2d Battalion, 184th Infantry. 75 

Situation at the End of the Second Day 

As night closed in the naval planes re- 
tired to their carriers, having made seventy 



sorties over Kwajalein Island dropping 40 
tons of bombs and expending 20,800 
rounds of .50-caliber ammunition in spe- 
cial missions and general ground support. 
The close support carriers and battleships, 
with their screens, cruised a few miles 
south of Kwajalein Island. No enemy air- 
craft had been discovered operating in 
the entire Marshall Islands area. 76 

During 2 February the transports had 
continued unloading the supply and am- 
munition for dumps on Carlson, Carlos, 
and Kwajalein Islands. A forward ammu- 
nition dump and maintenance point was 
set up between Wilma Road and the air- 
field and maintained by DUKW's until 
their withdrawal during the late afternoon 
for service in the next day's assault on Bur- 
ton Island. By the end of 2 February 
the unloading of materiel for Carlos and 
Carlson had reached a point where it 
could be estimated that it would be com- 
pleted by noon of the 3d. The shore parties 
on Kwajalein Island were reinforced dur- 
ing the day by elements of the defense 
force. Green Beach 4, facing the lagoon at 
the western corner of the island, was put 
into use during the afternoon. 77 

American casualties recorded on 2 Feb- 
ruary included 1 1 killed in action and 241 
wounded, of whom 34 were returned to 
duty. 78 Evacuation of the wounded on 2 
February had been rapid, especially after 
the arrival of the ambulances during the 
afternoon. Litter squads took the wounded 
to the battalion aid stations for treatment, 
after which they were brought along the 

73 RCT 184 Jnl, 021330 Feb 44, 021831 Feb 44; 
767th Tk Bn Jnl, p. 6; Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, 
Vol. I, p. 100. 

74 BLT 184-2 Rpt, p. 4. 

75 Ibid., p. 4; Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, 
p. 22. 

76 TF 51 Marshalls Rpt, Incl F, p. 4. 

77 Ibid., p. 109, and Incl A, p. 7. 

78 7th Inf Div Flintlock Rpt, Vol. VII, G-4 Rpt, 
Annex C, Medical Rpt, p. 127. 



260 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 




BATTALION AID STATION near the beach and corpsmen administering blood plasma to 
a casualty. 



main highways in ambulances to the two 
collecting stations. At the beach, the shore 
party medical section evacuated them to 
the transports in LVT's. Late in the after- 
noon, the collecting station of Company B, 
7th Medical Battalion, which served the 
32d Regimental Combat Team, moved 
along Wallace Road to a position some 
seven hundred yards east of Red Beach 2. 
No clearing station had yet been estab- 
lished. 79 

The enemy was believed to be near the 
end of his strength. His casualties were 
thought to be from 1,000 to 1,200 dead. 
One of the few captured prisoners declared 
the remaining defenses in ruins, communi- 
cations broken, and only 200 to 300 of the 
remaining soldiers able to resist. 80 In such 
circumstances, the stage was set for the 



characteristic "banzai" attack. General 
Corlett's headquarters warned, "Be alert 
for counterattack at anytime day or night, 
it's bound to come. The Jap makes his 
suicide counterattack at dawn on the day 
after his cause becomes hopeless. Watch 
out tomorrow morning." 81 

The night's operations nevertheless 
proved to be relatively quiet. Enemy artil- 
lery fired some white phosphorus in front 
of both regiments, dropped a mortar shell 
near the tanks bivouacked at the western 
end of the airfield, and after midnight sent 
over a substantial volume of grenades and 
small arms, automatic, and mortar fire, 

79 7th Inf Div Med Bn Rpt of Activity During 
Flintlock Opn, 2 Feb 44, pp. 10, 11. 

80 7th Inf Div Flintlock Rpt, Vol. Ill, G-l Rpt, 
Jnl, 2 Feb 44, p. 9; RCT 32 Jnl, 022030 Feb 44. 

81 RCT 32 Jnl, 2 Feb 44, Msgs 71, 72. 



REDUCTION OF THE MAIN DEFENSES OF KWAJALEIN ISLAND 



261 



such as might be preliminary to a counter- 
attack. Yelling and the throwing of gre- 
nades continued in front of Company G, 
184th Infantry, but no major counter- 
attack developed, and after 0320 the front 
line quieted down. 82 From the 32d Infan- 
try's side of the island, firing and star shells 
on the lagoon side could be observed, but 
no corresponding action, not even active 
evening patrols, disturbed the waiting men 
in their own zone. 83 

The night did not pass without some 
casualties, however. At approximately 
2300 an enemy shell burst above the posi- 
tion of the 2d Platoon, 91st Chemical 
Company, causing a conflagration that 
wounded seven men. 84 Soon thereafter one 
of the 155-mm. howitzers in Battery B, 
145th Field Artillery Battalion, suffered a 
premature burst that split the tube, sent 
one large piece four hundred yards through 
the air, and set the nearest powder cases 
ablaze. One man was killed at once, three 



later died of wounds, and thirteen others 
were wounded, of whom five had to be im- 
mediately evacuated. Live ammunition 
was hastily removed to safety, the fire 
gotten under control, and the position 
saved. 85 

The situation at the end of the second 
day's fighting on Kwajalein Island encour- 
aged expectations of a speedy victory on 
the following day. For the next day's op- 
erations, General Corlett ordered the two 
assault regiments: "Organize vigorous at- 
tack 0715 tomorrow. . . . Finish the job 
not later than 1500 3 February. The 
Northern Force [at Roi-Namur] has fin- 
ished the job. . . ," 86 



82 Ibid., pp. 136-39; Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, 
Vol. I, p. 101. 

85 RCT 32 Jnl, 3 Feb 44, p. 139. 

84 91st Chemical Co Rpt of Participation in Kwaja- 
lein Opns, 18 Feb 44, p. 137. 

85 145th FA Bnjnl, 3 Feb 44, pp. 187-88; Marshall, 
Kwajalein Notes, Vol. Ill, pp. 27-29. 

86 RCT 32 Jnl, 2 Feb 44, Msg 71. 



CHAPTER XVI 



Kwajalein Island: 
The Third Day 



From the line of departure of 3 February 
to the northeastern extremity, Kwajalein 
Island curved and narrowed for about 
2,000 yards. 1 Halfway along the lagoon 
shore was Nob Pier, while on the ocean 
side the distance around the outside of the 
curve from Corn Strong Point to Nathan 
Road, which extends across the island from 
Nob Pier, was approximately 1,500 yards. 
The island was over 600 yards wide where 
the day's advance was to start but nar- 
rowed to almost 300 yards at Nathan 



Road.\(Map 11) 
ths 



Nathan Road was the day's first objec- 
tive. At the left, between the lagoon and 
Will Road, the band of buildings that had 
begun near Center Pier continued un- 
broken. Another concentration of build- 
ings lay in the middle of the island some 
250 yards north of Nora Road, in a dia- 
mond-shaped area of approximately 250 
by 350 yards. Here, according to a cap- 
tured enemy map, were the headquarters, 
communications center, shops, and other 
installations of the Admiralty section, as 
distinguished from those related to the air- 
field. Except along its southeastern side, 
the area of these buildings had been 
cleared, and a loop of secondary road con- 
nected it with Will Road. The third aggre- 
gation of enemy buildings to be encount- 
ered in the area before Nathan Road was 



the southern section of the heavily built-up 
area that stretched to the end of the island. 
Buildings extended, within a grid of cross- 
island and north-south streets, from a 
wooded area some 500 yards south of 
Nathan Road to the northern highway 
loop. Halfway between Nora and Nathan 
Roads, among the southernmost buildings 
of this northern aggregation, was Noel 
Road, which also linked the two main 
island highways. 

Photographic reconnaissance of the part 
of Kwajalein Island yet to be captured on 
3 February had been limited by the heavy 
woods. Coastal installations stood out most 
clearly, and these appeared to be consider- 
ably stronger on the ocean side. South of 
Nathan Road two concentrations had 
been detected along the ocean shore. The 
first, organized around 300 yards of trench, 
lay parallel to the shore, 600 to 900 yards 
beyond Corn Strong Point, from which the 
right elements of the 32d Infantry were to 
start. In the narrow area between the 
trench and the ocean, two covered artillery 
positions and five pillboxes were antici- 
pated. Immediately beyond the trench the 
second concentration, designated as Nap 
Strong Point, consisted of nearly 400 yards 
of organized positions in which three heavy 



1 Description based upon 7th Inf Div Opns Map, 
JICPOA Bull 48-44. 




MAP 1 1 



264 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



and five light machine gun emplacements 
had been observed and at least one pillbox 
was expected. 

The Plan for 3 February 

The two regiments faced, on what was 
expected to be the last day of attack, the 
island's area of densest construction. Esti- 
mates of remaining Japanese fortified posi- 
tions other than those along the shores had 
been made from information supplied by 
Japanese prisoners and the captured Mar- 
shalls natives but, although the latter had 
warned of reinforced concrete shelters 
among the other structures in the northern 
portion of the island, their actual number 
and strength was not anticipated. 2 

Progress on Kwajalein Island on 3 Feb- 
ruary required co-ordinated movement 
through strong defenses and heavy concen- 
trations of enemy troops. The axis of ad- 
vance would turn gradually from northeast 
to north, as the troops advanced along the 
narrowing curve of the island. Except for a 
brief loop to the east to bring all of the 
Admiralty area into the 184th Infantry's 
zone, the regimental boundary continued 
along the middle of the island. To make 
the swing along the island's curve while 
maintaining alignments of the two regi- 
mental fronts demanded greater rapidity 
of advance in the 32d Infantry zone. 

General Corlett's plan for 3 February 
anticipated rapid occupation of the rest of 
the island. It called for a "vigorous attack," 
beginning at 07 15. 3 At 0700 a ten-minute 
artillery preparation would begin in which 
the eighteen heavy regimental mortars 
would supplement the division artillery in 
hitting Kwajalein Island, while the naval 
gunfire was being directed on Burton 
Island. 4 During this preparatory fire, the 
1st Battalion, 184th Infantry, was to pass 



through the 2d Battalion and jump off 
from the line of departure at 0715, Com- 
pany A on the right, Company B on the 
left, and Company C in reserve. Each com- 
pany was to have a detachment of the 1 3th 
Engineers, a platoon of heavy machine 
guns, and one 37-mm. antitank gun. The 
engineers were to prepare the charges to 
blow up enemy shelters. Each of the lead- 
ing companies would be supported by four 
medium tanks, and in addition two light 
tanks would operate with Company A on 
the right. 5 

The 32d Infantry's attack was to be car- 
ried by the 3d Battalion, Company I on 
the right along the ocean shore, Company 
K on the left between Wallace Road and 
the regimental boundary, and Company L 
mopping up behind Company K. One 
platoon of medium tanks and two light 
tanks were to support the assault, with a 
second platoon of mediums in reserve. A 
destroyer would furnish naval gunfire on 
call, and air support would continue as on 
the previous days. The 1st Battalion was to 
pass through the 2d Battalion and follow 
in close support, covering any gaps in 
depth that might develop. 6 

The Attack of the 32 d Infantry 

The execution of the plan began at 0705, 
with the ten-minute preparatory fire. The 
troops jumped off on schedule while the 
artillery continued to fire ahead of the 
troops in a creeping barrage. When the 1st 
Battalion, 184th Infantry, had come 
abreast of the 32d Infantry, the latter 
moved forward across a hundred yards of 



2 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, pp. 68, 101. 

3 RCT 32Jnl, 2 Feb 44, Msg 71. 

4 RCT 184 Jnl, 021830 Feb 44. 

5 RCT 184 Rpt, pp. 53-54. 

6 RCT 32 Rpt, p. 5. 



KWAJALEIN ISLAND: THE THIRD DAY 



265 



brush to a woods that had been under 
bombardment. No fire was received until 
the troops had pressed though the woods 
for another two hundred yards. Only ruins 
of a few structures were found there, but 
about 150 yards to the northwest was the 
corner of the Admiralty area, where a 
large concrete pillbox partly commanded 
the 32d Infantry's route of advance. Pro- 
tected by the trees, most of Companies K 
and I passed beyond this installation, while 
Company K's support platoon and two of 
the medium tanks turned left to attack it. 
Driven into the open by demolition charges 
and 75-mm. shells, the enemy occupants 
ran out one by one to seek shelter among 
nearby buildings. Lt. Col. John M. Finn, 
executive officer of the 32 d Infantry, and 
Capt. Sanford I. Wolff, observer from the 
33d Infantry Division, shot them as they 
ran. The Japanese buildings on the left 
flank could not be cleared unless Company 
K moved into the field of fire of Company 
A, 184th Infantry, which was just begin- 
ning to push along the southwestern edge 
of the Admiralty area. A local arrangement 
was therefore made by Colonel Finn and 
1st Lt. Norvin E. Smith, commanding 
Company A. Company L, 32d Infantry, 
with the support platoon of Company A, 
184th Infantry, would mop up the building 
area by house-to-house action; the remain- 
der of Company A would continue north, 
and in so doing protect CompanyTC's left 
flank. Company L would also maintain 
connection between the two battalions. 
The arrangement in effect modified the 
regimental boundary. 7 

Enemy positions in the 32d Infantry's 
zone were not only scattered but also such 
as to enable rapid movement without de- 
tailed search of all cover. The more thor- 
ough mopping up could be done by support 
elements. General Corlett ordered the 32d 



Infantry to "keep smashing ahead." 8 The 
growing gap between the leading elements 
of the two regiments was, however, a cause 
of increasing concern to Colonel Finn. By 
shortly before noon the right wing had 
pushed through the first aggregation of de- 
fenses along the ocean shore and had 
reached Noel Road. The 32d Infantry's 
line bent southwest from that point to a 
point about two hundred yards north of 
the Admiralty area. The 184th Infantry's 
lines extended from the southwestern edge 
of the Admiralty area southwest to the 
lagoon shore about a hundred yards from 
Nora Road. 9 Between the two regiments 
there was a vertical gap including most of 
the Admiralty area. To care for this and 
any other strain on the lengthening gap 
between the two regiments, the 1st Battal- 
ion, 32d Infantry, had been sent forward 
at 0900. Early in the afternoon Company 
B relieved Company L, which had been 
mopping up in the Admiralty area; Com- 
pany L then moved north to fill in the 
vertical gap; Company C filled in south of 
Company L along the gap; and Company 
A, in reserve, stood ready to shift to the 
south of Company C should the gap 
become longer. 10 

Had the enemy defense been co-ordi- 
nated, the long spearhead on the eastern 
side of the island might have been struck 
effectively from the west, but actually the 
danger most apparent to the 3 2d Infantry's 
command was that of fire from the zone of 
the 184th. In fact, small arms fire from the 
184th's zone did fall from time to time east 
of the Admiralty area. 11 As the 184th In- 
fantry swung north, the line of fire could 
increase this risk. 

7 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, p. 80. 

8 RCT 32 Jnl, 3 Feb 44, Msg 1 7. 

9 Ibid., 3 Feb 44, pp. 155-56. 

10 Ibid., 3 Feb 44, pp. 144, 157. 
" Ibid., 3 Feb 44, p. 160. 



266 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



The Morning Action in the 184th Infantry's 
%one 

The division plan for 3 February had 
envisioned heavy opposition in front of the 
3 2d Infantry and very little of consequence 
facing the 184th. Within thirty minutes of 
the move northeastward, however, the 1st 
Battalion, 184th Infantry, had run into the 
first of the many surprises it was to encoun- 
ter during the day. 

The Early Phase of the Attack 

After passing through the 2d Battalion, 
184th Infantry, and continuing into the 
area temporarily penetrated on the previ- 
ous afternoon, the 1st Battalion had 
reached the line of departure at 0715 in 
accordance with orders. 12 The advance 
was started without supporting tanks, 
which had failed to arrive because of a 
misunderstanding about their rendezvous 
with infantry guides. 13 In the first 150 
yards Company B, along the lagoon, and 
Company A, at the right, advanced 
through rubble and broken trees west of 
Nora Road without more than scattered 
rifle fire from Japanese riflemen and occa- 
sional light machine gun fire from pill- 
boxes. Their momentum carried them on 
for another seventy-five yards with such 
rapidity that the prospects for swift ad- 
vance seemed excellent. Company B 
cleaned out an air raid shelter with gre- 
nades and shot down fleeing Japanese 
wearing arm bands like those of the Ameri- 
can troops. Both companies were advanc- 
ing over ground that had been under 
American mortar fire just before the jump- 
off. At 0806 enemy opposition was reported 
to be weak. 14 

Then Company B looked ahead at a 
sight for which no warnings had prepared 
them. As far as could be seen along either 



side of Will Road — along the lagoon and 
in the Admiralty area — amid dust and 
smoke, lay the dense ruins of frame struc- 
tures, the shattered walls of concrete build- 
ings, some of them very large, and a 
confused tangle of trees and rubble. Inter- 
spersed among the wrecked buildings were 
several underground shelters with great 
earthen mounds above them, and concrete 
blockhouses, intact and active. At the 
nearer edge of this formidable barrier was a 
great, round blockhouse of reinforced con- 
crete; fifty yards beyond the blockhouse, 
among the buildings, two huge shelters 
could be seen side by side. Thick, reinforced 
concrete, steel plates, logs, and a blanket of 
sand several feet thick had enabled them 
to withstand artillery fire without signifi- 
cant damage. Smaller bunkers at their 
right were part of the system of organized 
defensive positions that the men of Com- 
pany B had to reduce. As the line ap- 
proached the blockhouse, enemy fire 
strengthened. 

The Split in Company B 

Capt. Charles A. White, the Company 
B commander, had placed two rifle pla- 
toons in line at the start of the morning's 
attack. The blockhouse was almost entirely 
in the zone of the 1st Platoon, on the right. 
Just to the east of the built-up position lay 
a long, open corridor where a building had 
once stood. All that remained was the 
concrete floor. 15 

The company had come up to the block- 



12 RCT 184 Jnl, 030745 Feb 44; RCT 184 Rpt, 
BLT 184-1 Rpt, p. 7. 

13 BLT 184-1 Rpt, p. 7. 

14 RCT 184 Jnl, 030806 Feb 44; Marshall, Kwaja- 
lein Notes, Vol. I, p. 24. 

15 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, pp. 24ff. 
Unless otherwise noted, the following account of the 
action of Company B is taken from this source. 



KWAJALEIN ISLAND: THE THIRD DAY 



267 



house with no supporting weapons. Before 
any attack was made, it was decided to 
wait until the heavier pieces could be 
brought to bear. 1st Lt. Harold D. Klatt, 
commander of the 1st Platoon, upon re- 
ceiving a 37-mm. antitank gun, the first 
heavy weapon to be brought up, moved it 
to the entrance of the blockhouse, and the 
crew fired several rounds into it. Nothing 
seemed to happen as a result of these shells, 
so the gun was withdrawn. While the 1st 
Platoon had been working on the position 
from the right, the 2d Platoon, under 2d 
Lt. Frank D. Kaplan, had meanwhile 
swung more to the left toward the lagoon, 
partly to pass the blockhouse and partly to 
follow the curve of the lagoon shore. 

After his 1st Platoon had withdrawn its 
antitank gun, Lieutenant Klatt decided to 
bypass the position to the right and leave it 
for the tanks and reserve company to finish 
when they came up from the rear. To keep 
from being too badly mauled by the enemy 
still in the blockhouse, however, the pla- 
toon had to take maximum advantage of 
cover. Lieutenant Klatt ordered his men 
to move by bounds, swinging just to the 
right of the open corridor provided by the 
demolished building's floor. Several things 
happened now almost simultaneously: In 
the course of moving forward the 1st Pla- 
toon broke up into small groups and thus 
became a whole series of more or less inde- 
pendent bodies, each engaged in some 
small mission; the Japanese in the block- 
house, seeing that they were about to be 
bypassed, evidently decided to make some 
attempt to get out and back to other posi- 
tions in the rear; and Lieutenant Klatt dis- 
covered that he was actually lost — in the 
piles of rubble and debris that littered the 
whole area. Although the men of Lieuten- 
ant Kaplan's 2d Platoon were not more 
than twenty yards away on a straight line, 
they could not be seen; nor could Lieuten- 



ant Klatt's operator reach them on his 
radio. 

The men of the 1st Platoon gave their 
full attention to their own situation. Their 
most immediate problem seemed to be the 
elimination of the Japanese who were try- 
ing to escape from the blockhouse. Wher- 
ever they could, the men took up firing 
positions and cut down the enemy, one by 
one, as they appeared at the entrances. 
Elsewhere, Japanese in trees, in numerous 
supporting pillboxes and shelters, and even 
under and behind the rubble piles, began 
a counterfire on the little groups. Some of 
the platoon broke off fire at the blockhouse 
and began to search through the debris for 
the sources of the harassment. Others 
crouched in shell holes or behind the piles 
of rubble trying to find the enemy from the 
relatively protected vantage points. Mean- 
while, medium tanks had at last moved up 
the road from the rear and approached the 
blockhouse. There they stopped and sat 
idly since neither Lieutenant Klatt nor 
any of his men could get to them to tell the 
crews what had to be done. 

The truth is that it would probably have 
made little difference at this point whether 
the infantrymen could have reached the 
tanks. The improvised telephone sets that 
had been installed on the rear of the tanks 
for the Kwajalein operation were usually 
shorted out because their boxes were in- 
adequately waterproofed. The only sure 
way for Klatt to have contacted a tank 
would have been to rap on its outside with 
a rifle butt. This would have entailed stop- 
ping the tank and opening its hatch while 
the infantry and tank commanders con- 
ferred. In a close-fire fight such as this, the 
danger to all parties concerned would have 
been too great to warrant the risk. 16 

16 USAFICPA Participation Rpt Kwajalein and 
Eniwetok, pp. 176-78; 767th Tk Bn Flintlock Rpt, 
28 Feb 44, p. 66. 



KWAJALEIN ISLAND: THE THIRD DAY 



269 



While the 1st Platoon had been working 
around the right of the big blockhouse, the 
2d Platoon had moved to the left and then 
halted to reorganize and wait for the 1st 
Platoon to re-establish contact. Ahead of 
his men, Lieutenant Kaplan could see 
nothing but debris. From the littered 
ground and from a small wharf that jutted 
out into the lagoon, rifle fire was being re- 
ceived in fairly heavy volume. To eliminate 
this, the platoon commander decided to 
call in artillery fire, but he asked the artil- 
lery forward observer to confine it, if possi- 
ble, to the area between the lagoon and the 
road. He did not know exactly where the 
1st Platoon was, but suspected it might be 
ahead of him. When the fire was finally 
brought in, some of it spilled across the 
road and began bursting within 20 to 25 
yards of Lieutenant Klatt's men. Klatt 
sensed that the bursts were from American 
artillery, and, as they appeared to be get- 
ting closer, he yelled for his men to pull 
back behind the blockhouse. In one case 
four men had just left a crater when the 
exact spot on which they had been lying 
was hit by a shell. The 1st Platoon reor- 
ganized and took up a position approxi- 
mately on a line with the blockhouse. 

The Second Attack 

More than an hour had elapsed since 
the company first entered the area, and 
battalion headquarters was beginning to 
notice that there had been no advance in 
the Company B area. Headquarters called 
Captain White so frequently for informa- 
tion that the company commander finally 
left his command post to join Lieutenant 
Klatt in the debris ahead. Before he left for 
the front line he committed part of his 3d 
Platoon along the lagoon shore where, ac- 
cording to an air observer, some Japanese 



were gathering for a counterattack. 

Upon his arrival at the front lines, Cap- 
tain White reorganized his whole line, 
bringing up machine guns to cover the gap 
between his two assault platoons and lin- 
ing up the tanks for a co-ordinated drive 
against the numerous shelters that lay 
ahead. Because of the failure of previous 
tactics against these positions, the tanks 
were now to precede the infantry, moving 
slowly and firing all their weapons at tar- 
gets of opportunity. The infantry, under 
cover of this fire, would move directly up 
to the shelters and throw in satchel charges. 

Company B's second attack began at 
approximately 0945. Two hours and a half 
had elapsed since the initial effort had be- 
gun, and no appreciable gains had been 
registered since the company had first 
reached the fortified area. 

The new tactics proved unsatisfactory 
from the first. The fire from the tanks was 
directed at random and proved to be more 
dangerous to the infantry than the action 
of the enemy. When Captain White sought 
to co-ordinate the work of tanks and infan- 
try, the problem of communications again 
became a major one. The phones on the 
rear of the vehicles would not work, and 
the company commander had to scramble 
up on the top of the turret and beat a tattoo 
with the butt of his weapon to get the 
attention of the men in the lead tank. By 
the time he had told the commander what 
he wanted, the whole platoon of tanks had 
become separated from the infantry, and 
each tank was proceeding on an independ- 
ent mission. For the time being, the value 
of the tanks was lost to the infantry. More- 
over, the two assault platoons, pushing 
through the rubble, had themselves once 
more become separated and all co-ordina- 
tion between them was lost. 

On the left, between the highway and 



270 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



the lagoon, all of the 2d Platoon and part 
of the 3d were driving forward steadily. 
Each pile of debris was investigated, blown 
up with satchel charges, and then set afire. 
Working in small groups, the men on the 
left moved forward one hundred yards in 
an hour. Conditions were such that two 
details working less than ten yards apart 
did not know of each other's presence. The 
high piles of splintered wood and smashed 
concrete, together with the dense smoke 
that now covered the area, isolated and 
split up the various actions. Japanese who 
fired from under the debris, sometimes at 
almost point-blank range, had to be routed 
out. 

On the right, Lieutenant Klatt's platoon 
had also separated into small groups to 
carry the fight to the shelters and piles of 
debris in its area. Captain White, after his 
episode with the tanks, tried to re-establish 
a solid company front and sent his runner 
to Lieutenant Klatt with orders to close 
the gap between himself and Lieutenant 
Kaplan. Klatt replied that this was impos- 
sible until the big blockhouse, now to his 
left rear, had been cleaned out. White, 
upon receiving this message, ordered his 
runner to take a detail from company 
headquarters and see if he could knock out 
the blockhouse. The runner, together with 
the company bugler and the mail orderly, 
moved up with two satchel charges and 
threw them inside. There was a terrific 
explosion, but there seemed to have been 
little damage done to the position. The 
company's executive officer reported that 
there were many signs of Japanese still in- 
side, and a platoon of Company C was 
brought forward to work on the position 
and keep it under surveillance. Enemy 
soldiers were still being killed there late in 
the evening as they tried to wriggle out 
and escape. 



Captain White had followed the action 
at the blockhouse by again trying to get 
the two assault platoons of his company in 
direct contact. He moved up the road and 
found Lieutenant Kaplan. After failing 
once more to get satisfactory co-ordination 
in tank-infantry efforts, the company com- 
mander began the task of extending the 2d 
Platoon's right flank to meet Lieutenant 
Klatt's left. Between Will Road and the 
point at which he judged the 1st Platoon's 
right elements to be, there were three large 
shelter-type buildings, one close to the road 
and the other two well back from it. The 
latter were definitely concrete reinforced 
shelters, but the former could not be 
identified. 

There appeared to be no enemy in any 
of these shelters, but to make sure a 37-mm. 
antitank gun was brought forward and 
placed on the road to bear on the nearest 
building. It fired several rounds of high 
explosive and canister, which completely 
wrecked the structure and set fire to it. 
Much to the chagrin of the whole com- 
pany, the building was later found to con- 
tain virtually all the sake, beer, and candy 
that the Japanese had on the island. Only 
a few bottles of beer were saved. 

Meanwhile, without the company com- 
mander's knowledge, a small patrol of the 
1st Platoon had reached the farthest inland 
of the two remaining shelters. Two of the 
men, Sgt. Melvin L. Higgins and Pvt. 
Arthur T. Contreras, after taking cover in 
a shell hole and surveying the two build- 
ings, decided to throw satchel charges in 
the main entrance and see what would 
happen. By this time the company had 
used so many of the charges that it had 
exhausted the supply in the regimental 
dump. The company executive officer, 
however, had brought up several blocks of 
Composition C, a high explosive, and 



KWAJALEIN ISLAND: THE THIRD DAY 



271 



members of the company were improvis- 
ing satchel charges by tying the blocks to- 
gether and putting them into gas mask 
carriers. Two of these improvised charges 
were now made up, and each of the two 
men ran twenty-five yards over to the en- 
trance, threw one in, and ducked back to 
the cover of the shell hole. The explosion 
shook the building but caused no appreci- 
able damage. Another charge was placed 
with the same apparent lack of effect. As 
he ran back for cover, however, Higgins 
noticed two Japanese machine guns be- 
tween the left-hand building and the road. 
There seemed to be no enemy around these 
weapons, but almost directly behind them 
was a little trench, which made Higgins 
suspicious. Instead of running over to the 
guns, he went over to one of two medium 
tanks nearby, talked the crews into open- 
ing their hatches, and pointed out the ma- 
chine guns. The tank lumbered toward the 
position. As it did so, a white flag began 
waving a short distance behind the guns. 
Nevertheless, the tank opened fire and a 
few moments later Sergeant Higgins 
crawled forward and found twelve dead 
enemy soldiers directly behind the guns in 
a camouflaged ditch, from which they 
could have fired at anyone curious enough 
to approach. 

The action of the tank had, it appeared, 
opened the way for a resumption of con- 
tact between the two platoons. Without 
either knowing of the other's actions, 
Kaplan and Klatt each sent patrols to find 
the other. The group from the 1st Platoon 
consisted of only two men, S. Sgt. Roland 
H. Hartl and Pfc. Solteros E. Valenzuela. 
That from the 2d Platoon was composed 
of ten men under the command of Sgt. 
Warren Kannely. Both groups were con- 
cerned with the shelter into which Higgins 
and Contreras had just thrown charges. 



Neither group knew of the other's presence. 

Sergeant Hartl's group reached the 
building first. Hartl came up to the front 
entrance from the southeast side. The 
building was, therefore, interposed between 
himself and Kannely. Hartl and Valen- 
zuela crept up to the entrance, looked in, 
and saw nothing. Hartl got to his feet, non- 
chalantly pulled the pin on an offensive 
grenade, and tossed it in the door. Then 
the two men sprinted out of sight from 
everyone around a big pile of rubbish, and 
Hartl stopped and took a long drink of 
water from his canteen. 

At the moment Sergeant Hartl's gre- 
nade exploded, Pfc. Harold S. Pratt was 
creeping up on the entrance from the op- 
posite direction with another improvised 
satchel charge. He had not seen Hartl, nor 
had Hartl seen him. Only a moment after 
the grenade exploded, Pratt heaved his 
charge in the entrance, yelled "Fire in the 
hole" at the top of his voice, and ducked 
back toward the point where Sergeant 
Kannely and his patrol were hiding in 
shell holes, twenty yards away. At that 
moment several things happened quickly. 
The charge exploded. Japanese came 
streaming out of the shelter at two en- 
trances, shooting rifles, brandishing bayo- 
nets, and throwing grenades as they rushed 
pell-mell toward Sergeant Kannely and 
his men. Sergeant Hartl dropped his can- 
teen, and he and Valenzuela dove for the 
shell craters in which the 2d Platoon's 
patrol was hiding. Sergeant Higgins and 
his group on the opposite side took up fire 
on the screaming Japanese. For ten min- 
utes the whole area was a melee of strug- 
gling men. Grenades were exploding and 
rifle bullets flying in all directions. One 
Japanese machine gun opened fire from 
beyond the shelters and enemy soldiers 
began taking up the fire from under heaps 



272 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 




A .30-CALIBER MACHINE GUN emplacement on Kwajalein. 



of wreckage and from trees nearby. The 
combined action of Kannely's and Hig- 
gins' groups soon killed all the Japanese 
who had come from the shelter, but in the 
process Kannely and two others of his 
group had been killed and several seriously 
wounded, including Valenzuela. The re- 
mainder were now under heavy fire from 
enemy machine guns and riflemen. Pratt 
crawled back to the road and asked Cap- 
tain White, who was still standing near the 
wrecked and burning storage house, to 
send tanks, machine guns, and litter 
bearers into the area. He explained what 
had happened. The company commander 
immediately sent two tanks off the road 
toward the shelters. The tanks soon drove 
the Japanese out of their hiding places and 
silenced the machine guns, but in the 
process also fired on Sergeant Higgins' 



group, which was still hiding on the oppo- 
site side of the shelters. Neither Higgins 
nor any of his men could see the tanks or 
the machine guns, but they could hear 
them; and the volume of fire meant only 
one thing to them, a Japanese counter- 
attack. T. Sgt. Ernest Tognietti, the pla- 
toon sergeant, who had now come forward 
to join Higgins, ordered a withdrawal to a 
line of machine guns that Lieutenant Klatt 
had set up forty yards to the south of the 
shelters. Behind this defensive position, the 
platoon leader reorganized his platoon and 
ordered the men to hold. 

In the 2d Platoon area, meanwhile, 
Lieutenant Kaplan had still been trying to 
push his men forward on the lagoon side of 
the road beyond the sake storage house. 
Because of the debris he had not seen the 
action involving Sergeant Kannely's patrol 



KWAJALEIN ISLAND: THE THIRD DAY 



273 



and was unaware of the casualties incurred 
there. When the opposition of the Japanese 
became stronger along his immediate 
front, shortly after this incident, the pla- 
toon leader came back along the road to 
see Captain White and find out whether 
he could have more tank support. The 
company commander informed him of 
Kannely's death and of the fact that only 
two of the ten men sent to the right of the 
road were left. He advised Kaplan to hold 
up his attack until the whole company 
front could be reorganized. It was now 
1230. Before Company B could launch a 
third attack through the area, the whole 
attack plan for the 184th Infantry was 
changed. 

Action of Company A 

At Nora Road, Company A, 184th In- 
fantry, had also found a totally unexpected 
group of buildings, pillboxes, and shelters 
through which it moved during sharp 
fighting. 17 Enemy riflemen behind fallen 
trees and piles of debris kept up a heavy 
fire as six or more defended points were 
brought under control. When two medium 
tanks and one light tank, with one self- 
propelled 75-mm. howitzer, reported at 
0830, they joined in the attack. The com- 
pany's progress was more rapid than that 
of Company B, past whose right wing it 
continued as far as the Admiralty area. 
The eight large structures and twelve or 
more smaller buildings of this area had 
been thoroughly bombed and shelled, but 
active blockhouses and shelters were scat- 
tered among them. To comb the enemy 
from the wreckage and clear out the shel- 
ters was certain to take a long time 
and perhaps more than one company's 
strength. Company A suffered several 
casualties as it began the task, although 



resistance was less determined than that 
encountered by Company B. 18 Company 
A pushed about a hundred yards beyond 
the Admiralty area before it was ordered 
to advance slowly rather than move too far 
beyond Company B. At its right, Com- 
pany K, 32d Infantry, continued to ad- 
vance and took over a wider front. Com- 
pany A's right platoon was pulled back 
behind the left and Company K moved 
forward somewhat to the west of the estab- 
lished regimental boundary. 19 

The Revised Plan of Attack 

Company B, 184th Infantry, was faced 
with a situation that it could not handle 
alone. It could not move ahead, leaving 
mopping up to supporting units. The en- 
emy was too numerous and too firmly 
established and the terrain continued to 
be so badly disrupted that co-ordinated 
action could not be maintained. Shortly 
before noon, the regiment produced a re- 
vised plan of attack. The 2d Battalion, 
184th Infantry, was to move through the 
right wing of the 1st Battalion and then 
swing left, taking over the entire regimen- 
tal zone from a line a hundred yards south- 
west of Noel Road. The 1st Battalion was 
itself to swing left and shift the direction of 
its attack to a broad front parallel to the 
lagoon. This order was modified by a 
division order at 1225. 21 The 2d Battalion, 
184th Infantry, was limited to a northern 
boundary that curved from Noel Road to 
the juncture of the lagoon and Nathan 
Road. The 32d Infantry was to take over 
all the island north of that point, pinching 

,r BLT 184-1 Rpt, p. 7. 

Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, p. 60. 

BLT 184-1 Rpt, p. 7. 
20 RCT 184Jnl, 031 150 Feb 44. 
-' 7th Inf Div Flintlock Rpt, Vol. VI, 7th Inf Div 
G-3Jnl, 3 Feb 44, Msg 72. 



KWAJALEIN ISLAND: THE THIRD DAY 



275 



off the 184th's zone there. The 1st Battal- 
ion, 184th Infantry, was to attack toward 
the lagoon but over a less extended front. 
By 1330, maneuvers to carry o ut the new 



plan of attack were in progress. ( Map 12 ) 



Execution of Attack in the 184th's ^pne 

At the time when the revised plan of op- 
erations was adopted, the enemy was 
being engaged along an irregular front 
that extended from the Noel Road line on 
the ocean side to the northwestern edge of 
the Admiralty area, and thence westward 
to the lagoon at a point about a hundred 
yards north of Nora Road. The 32d In- 
fantry was three hundred yards nearer 
Nathan Road than the 184th, the right 
wing of which was in turn well ahead of its 
left and able to advance more freely. The 
2d Battalion, 184th Infantry, which had 
been mopping up in the rear, moved for- 
ward at once, only six hours after being re- 
lieved, with Company G at the right, 
Company F behind G, and Company E at 
the left. 22 The battalion was to march 
along the eastern edge of the regimental 
zone to the area in which Company A was 
operating, to pass through or around 
Company A, and to swing northwest to- 
ward Nob Pier and the lagoon. It expected 
to reach the northern edge of Company 
A's area at approximately 1430. Shortly 
after the 2d Battalion moved off in the at- 
tack, Companies A and C were to turn 
west and approach the lagoon with the 
former on the right. Company B was to 
serve as the hinge, furnishing fire in front 
of Company C from the south until Com- 
pany C itself masked B. Then Company B 
was to swing around to the lagoon beach. 23 

As the 2d Battalion approached the Ad- 
miralty area about 1400, a conflagration 
among its ruined structures made move- 



ment through it impossible. 24 Company E 
kept to the left of it; Company G, followed 
by Company F, went to the right, losing 
contact. Company E had expected to 
reach a line at least partly held by Com- 
pany A. A guide was killed on the way 
forward, and the company moved uncer- 
tainly through the welter to what was 
thought to be its line of departure. Com- 
pany A was not there; it had already been 
pulled back in order to reorganize for its 
new attack toward the lagoon. A gap be- 
tween Company A and Company E thus 
developed directly northwest of the burn- 
ing Admiralty area. Company G and 
Company F passed by Company A over 
ground well east of the regimental bound- 
ary, then turned northwest toward their 
line of departure. When Company G re- 
newed contact with Company E, after at 
least half an hour, G had lost touch with 
the left-hand elements of the 32d Infan- 
try. 25 

Lt. Col. Carl H. Aulich and the forward 
echelon of the 2d Battalion, 184th Infan- 
try, command post came up to a tentative 
location northeast of the Admiralty area 
amid heavy rifle fire, smoke, and confu- 
sion. Attempts to co-ordinate the move- 
ments of the 2d Battalion with those of 
Company A, with which it was to main- 
tain contact on its left, proved inordinately 
difficult. 26 

About 1545 Company A was joined by 
two medium tanks and Company C by two 
mediums and two M10 tank destroyers. 
The attack was mounted by 1605 on the 
western edge of the built-up Admiralty 
area along a three-hundred-yard front, 



22 BLT 184-2 Rpt, p. 6. 
23 BLT 184-1 Rpt, p. 8. 

24 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, p. 60. 

25 Ibid., pp. 62-64. 

26 Ibid., pp. 73-74. 



276 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



with Company A's right wing somewhat 
south of Noel Road. Ten minutes later the 
advance toward the lagoon began. From 
the line of departure to Will Road, a dis- 
tance of about seventy-five yards, move- 
ment was steady and opposition quickly 
overcome. Will Road was crossed shortly 
after 1630. The enemy was much more 
firmly established between the highway 
and the beach, in pillboxes, blockhouses, 
and strong shelters. Mortar fire on this 
area kept the enemy down until the tanks 
and infantry approached. The co-ordi- 
nated work of tanks, infantry, and demo- 
lition teams ran smoothly. At 1800 they 
were at the lagoon. 27 

Company C began to mask Company 
B's fire about 1630, releasing the latter to 
re-form on Company C's left wing, in the 
vicinity of Will and Nora Roads. Com- 
pany A received a counterattack from 
about twenty of the enemy on its right 
flank, just as its advance was ending, but 
destroyed the attacking force. There was 
still no contact with Company E. 28 

Company E had started its attack before 
those of either Company G or the 1st Bat- 
talion. At 1440 it began moving north- 
west. 29 Somewhat more than half an hour 
later Company E was reported to have 
crossed Noel Road, with Company G on 
its right. Two medium and two light tanks, 
taken over from the 1st Battalion, moved 
forward with each of the companies, and 
each had one squad of engineer troops 
with demolitions. Enemy rifle fire was 
heavy. The men broke up into small 
groups, proceeding unevenly in the gen- 
eral direction of Nob Pier. Between 1830 
and 1900, Capt. Peter Blaettler, Company 
E's commander, was seriously wounded. 30 
Control from the battalion command post 
had been lost — that element was hugging 
the ground to avoid sharp fire from enemy 



riflemen. Colonel Aulich had become sep- 
arated from the main part of his battalion 
and was to remain so until the next morn- 
ing. To all intents and purposes he had lost 
command of his unit. 31 

The 2d Battalion's attack was pushed 
along the eastern side of Will Road toward 
Nathan Road, but as sunset approached 
it became evident not only that Company 
E would not reach Nob Pier but also that 
across Will Road on the left flank there 
was an area with many strong enemy de- 
fense positions too powerful to be occupied 
in the forty-five minutes before dark. 32 

Action of the 32d Infantry After 
Change of Plans 

The 3d Battalion, 32d Infantry, with 
the support of Company C of the same 
regiment, pushed rapidly toward Nathan 
Road to execute its mission under the re- 
vised plan of attack, which became effec- 
tive at 1330. On the extreme right wing, 
Company I achieved excellent co-ordina- 
tion of infantry-engineer teams with me- 
dium tanks, and rapidly reduced Nap 
Strong Point, which proved to be only 
weakly defended. The company was re- 
ported at 1355 to have reached Nathan 
Road. 33 Company K, in the inner zone, 
had much more difficulty. Its route lay 
through a maze of ruined buildings, de- 
bris, connecting trenches, and still active 
pillboxes, as well as shelters crowded with 
hiding enemy. The terrain and poor com- 
munications prevented tank-infantry co- 
operation, and while the tanks were reduc- 

27 BLT 184-1 Rpt, p. 9. 

28 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, p. 72. 

29 BLT 184-2 Rpt, p. 7. 

30 Ibid., p. 8. 

31 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, p. 73. 

32 Ibid., p. 74. 

33 RCT 32 Jnl, 3 Feb 44, p. 163. 



KWAJALEIN ISLAND: THE THIRD DAY 



277 



ing enemy positions the infantry had to 
work near rather than with them. 34 Com- 
pany K was about two hundred yards to 
the left rear when Company I reportedly 
reached the road. Company L, in fulfill- 
ment of an understanding reached during 
the morning by the two leading battalions, 
was withdrawn from the Admiralty area 
to cover the gap on the left of the 3d Bat- 
talion's front when it was found that Com- 
pany A, 184th Infantry, had pulled back 
for its new mission under the revised 
plan. 35 Behind L, Company C, in support, 
received heavy rifle fire from the left, by 
which Capt. Charles W. Murphy, Jr., the 
company commander, was wounded. 36 
Company B and then Company A, 32d 
Infantry, were both committed to mop- 
ping up the Admiralty area, from which 
they moved north toward Noel Road. 37 

As the reports sent back to regimental 
headquarters were persistently conflicting 
and confused, it proved impossible to co- 
ordinate company movements. Perhaps 
even more important was the battered and 
shattered condition of the terrain. The ter- 
rible pounding to which Kwajalein had 
been submitted by artillery and naval 
shells was not an unmixed blessing to the 
infantry. The difficulty of getting around 
the rubble and other physical impedi- 
menta tended to diffuse units and keep 
their flanks dangling. In the middle of the 
island near Noel Road the conditions of 
battle and terrain made co-ordination al- 
most out of question since enemy fire was 
being delivered against the advancing bat- 
talions from positions between them and 
even to their rear. 38 

Company I, 3 2d Infantry, remained 
near Nathan Road, unable to advance 
until the line at the left came up. General 
Corlett came ashore and at 1640 held a 
telephone conference with his assistant 



division commander, General Ready, 
Colonel O'Sullivan of the 184th Infantry, 
and Colonel Logie of the 32d Infantry. He 
was reassured concerning the progress of 
the attack. 39 Thinking ahead to the re- 
maining enemy blockhouses and other 
concrete positions that might still be in the 
northern portion beyond Nathan Road, 
General Corlett arranged for naval gunfire 
to be spotted. This fire, from a heavy 
cruiser, was to be controlled through the 
naval liaison officer with the 32d Regi- 
ment, and it was to be delivered wherever 
the regiments desired. The regimental 
commanders later decided, however, that 
they were not yet in position to use this 
support. The main effort, they felt, had 
first to be the straightening of the line 
across the island. 40 

Between 1630 and 1730 Company K 
was moved up beside Company I by a 
maneuver that enabled Company I to fur- 
nish protection for its rear while it moved. 
Company L then advanced along the 
same route. As it moved, fire hit it from its 
left flank, possibly originating among 
friendly troops. The company did not 
complete its mission. It stopped for the 
night in the middle of the island between 
Noel and Nathan roads and its exact posi- 
tion was not accurately reported until next 
morning. 41 

Situation on the Night of 3 February 

All planes had returned to their carriers 
by 1857. The 3d of February had been a 



34 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, pp. 82-83. 

35 RGT 32 Jnl, 3 Feb 44, p. 1 65. 

36 Ibid., p. 164. 

37 Ibid., p. 171. 

38 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, p. 83. 

39 RCT 32 Jnl, 3 Feb 43, p. 1 7 1 . 
i0 Ibid., p. 174. 

41 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, pp. 43-44. 



278 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



quiet day for the planes over Kwajalein 
Island, where patrol and observation duty 
rather than air strikes had occupied 
them. 42 Admiral Reeves' carrier group, 
part of Task Force 58, departed during the 
evening for Majuro to refuel. One group of 
small escort carriers remained to furnish 
protection for the remainder of the battle 
for Kwajalein. The lagoon anchorages had 
filled steadily during the day. Transports 
carrying the reserve force, which it was 
clear would not be committed in this 
action, came into the lagoon from their 
previous station east of the atoll. All the 
transports of the attacking force were also 
at anchor. One group was so nearly un- 
loaded that it could plan to depart for 
Funafuti early in the morning. 43 

The eight LST's and three LCT's of the 
Kwajalein Island Defense Group, which 
arrived about noon on 2 February, had 
unloaded enough men and material to un- 
dertake the general defense of the western 
end of the island as far as Wilma Road. 
The group had brought ashore and em- 
placed its 40-mm. antiaircraft batteries on 
the western beaches. 44 

During the day, Green Beach 4, the 
westernmost portion of the lagoon shore, 
became the principal scene of shore party 
operations. Pontoon strips brought by 
LST's were lashed together to form the 
first of two causeway piers there, and pro- 
gress was well advanced toward the com- 
pletion of a good road connection from the 
beach to the island's highway system. All 
beach and shore parties were consolidated. 
One of the transport groups shifted its un- 
loading operations from Carlos Island to 
Kwajalein Island. The hospital ship Relief 
anchored in the lagoon at noon and began 
to take aboard the casualties already in 
the sick bays of the transports and to re- 
ceive others directly from the beaches. 



Those on Kwajalein Island were carried 
directly from beach to ship in landing 
craft, thus avoiding the previous days' de- 
lays caused by transferring the wounded 
from LVT's to boats at the edge of the reef. 
Heavy engineer equipment began to come 
ashore, although the main stream of such 
traffic was not to be released until the 
beachhead was better prepared. 45 

The advance along the axis of Kwaja- 
lein Island on 3 February had progressed 
about 1,000 yards. The hard fighting had 
been more costly than on either of the 
preceding days. Fifty-four were reported 
killed in action, and 255 wounded of 
which 60 were returned to duty. 46 The en- 
emy, however, had paid heavily in lives as 
well as in lost ground. The 32d Infantry 
estimated that 300 had been killed on its 
side of the island, and the 184th estimated 
at least 800 and perhaps 1,000 in its zone. 
In the one huge blockhouse alone, 200 
dead had been found, many of them evi- 
dently suicides. 47 

Neither of the regiments had reached 
Nathan Road in spite of optimistic reports 
to regimental headquarters. The 32d In- 
fantry was on one of the smaller streets 
among the cantonments, a road that par- 
alleled Nathan Road about 150 yards 
south. At the extreme right of the eastern 
zone was Company I and at the left of the 
zone, Company L. Holding a line that 
folded back from Company L's left flank 
as far as Carl Road were Companies B 
and A. Companies K and M were bent 



42 TF 51 Marshalls Rpt, Incl F, p. 5. 

43 Ibid., Incl A, p. 8. 

44 7th Inf Div G-3 Periodic Rpt 4, 031700 Feb 44. 

45 7th Inf Div Flintlock Rpt, Vol. VII, 7th Inf Div 
G-4 Jnl, 3 Feb 44, Incl 3, p. 4. 

46 Ibid., Annex 3, Incl 1, p. 127. 

47 RCT 184 Jnl, 031930 Feb 44; 7th Inf Div Flint- 
lock Rpt, Vol. Ill, G-l Jnl, 3 Feb 44, p. 14, and G-l 
Rpt, p. 2; RCT 32 Jnl, 3 Feb 44, p. 181. 



KWAJALEIN ISLAND: THE THIRD DAY 



279 




PONTON PIERS AT GREEN BEACH 



back along the ocean shore. Company C, 
which had been supporting the 3d Battal- 
ion during the afternoon, was to be placed 
across the zone behind the two forward 
companies despite some remaining uncer- 
tainty about its release for that mission by 
the 1st Battalion, which was expected to 
lead the assault next day, and even though 
no one knew exactly where Company L 
was located. In the last minutes of day- 
light, largely on the initiative of 1st Lt. 
Ramon Nelson, a platoon leader tempo- 
rarily in command of Company C, that 
company started marching to its widely 
dispersed position while its other officers 
were still in conference with battalion and 
regimental commanders over the orders to 
move. Its elements were separated during 
the movement and its exact situation was 
not well understood at regimental head- 



quarters until next morning. 48 From Carl 
Road back to Wilma Road, the 2d Battal- 
ion, 32d Infantry, covered the regimental 
zone; and from Wilma Road to the end of 
the island, on order of General Ready, the 
division's shore party provided defense of 
supply installations. 

The 184th Infantry was about seventy 
yards farther south than the 32d Infantry. 
The two leading companies, E and G, had 
pushed into an area between Will Road 
and buildings on the left of Company L, 
3 2d Infantry. West of the highway, as well 
as in front of the two companies at the 
north and in the uncleared buildings on 
the east, the enemy had control. A gap 
actually existed in the rear of Company E 
in a portion of the island over which no 

48 RCT 32 Jnl, 3 Feb 44, pp. 183-88; Marshall, 
Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, p. 85. 



280 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



contact with Company A had been estab- 
lished. Thus, the energetic push toward 
Nathan Road and Nob Pier had moved 
these companies into a salient. Heavy and 
light machine guns were set up to cover 
the areas at the left and front, but from 
the ruined structures on the right, rifle fire 
on Company G was heavy and incessant 
during the night, its accuracy improving 
with approaching daylight. The 3d Battal- 
ion, 184th Infantry, held the sector from 
Nora Road to the western edge of Center 
Pier. Defense of the supply installations in 
the remaining portion of the island as far 
west as Red Beach 1 was the mission of the 
shore party and, in part, of the 184th In- 
fantry's Cannon Company. 49 

Eagerness to reach the Nob Pier line on 
3 February had induced the leading ele- 
ments of both regiments to advance with 
all possible speed, without paying full at- 
tention to local security. Night found them 
in positions in which they were intermin- 
gled with the enemy, sometimes at such 
close range that fighting was restrained for 
fear of damage to friendly troops. At many 
points along the front, and at several spots 
in the rear, flickering fires lighted up ad- 
jacent areas and silhouetted moving men. 

Typical of the experiences all along the 
line on this evening were those that befell 
Company C, 32d Infantry. 50 This unit had 
begun moving into position across the rear 
of the 3d Battalion, 32d Infantry, at ap- 
proximately 1930. It was then nearly dark. 
There had been little time to investigate 
the ground the company covered, but in 
the gathering dusk,three large Japanese 
shelters and one pyramidal tent were 
found in the defensive area. The men of 
Company C felt that Japanese were still 
hiding under the canvas and were reason- 
ably certain that the shelters contained 
several enemy soldiers. The men were torn 



between two courses of action: clean out 
the enemy, or simply let them remain 
where they were until morning. Because 
the company radio was not working and 
no information could be passed on to 
neighboring units that Company C was 
actually moving in across the rear of the 
front line, the latter course was chosen. 
There was some fear that firing in the rear 
might be misinterpreted by the forward 
companies. Any pitched battle in the area 
would be almost certain to draw heavy 
American fire from the front and flanks. 

Company C "bedded down" in the 
midst of the enemy. The darkness and un- 
certainty of its position prevented its dig- 
ging in. Behind the men of Company C 
were 150 yards of ground filled with debris 
that had not been investigated or cleaned 
out. On the right, 150 yards away, Com- 
pany K had placed its flank on the ocean 
shore and extended forward and inland in 
a great arc. On the left, its exact where- 
abouts unknown to Company C, was the 
184th. To the rear, two great fires burned 
brightly, casting a red light over the whole 
area. At five-minute intervals flares and 
star shells from the mortar sections and 
ships drifted over the front, and sometimes 
directly over troops in the eastern zone. 
From 2000 to almost 0300 moonlight also 
faintly illuminated the area. 

Whenever the illumination became un- 
usually bright, enemy machine guns swept 
Company C's area, and from time to time 
mortar shells and grenades landed among 
the men. American BAR's, directed 
against scattered Japanese, threw bursts of 

49 RCT 184 Rpt, p. 96 (see map); Ibid., BLT 184-3 
Jnl, 3 Feb 44, p. 3. This journal mistakenly substitutes 
Carl Road for Nora Road. 

50 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I pp. 85ff. Un- 
less otherwise noted, the account of Company C's 
action on the night of 3-4 February is drawn from 
this account. 



KWAJALEIN ISLAND: THE THIRD DAY 



281 



fire from the company's rear. When fire 
became too heavy in certain parts of their 
area, elements of Company C tried to 
move to more favorable positions. Some- 
where during these movements six men of 
the mortar section of the weapons platoon 
were killed, although their presence was 
not missed until next morning. 

Japanese were in the areas south of the 
front line in greater numbers than on 
either of the preceding nights of the Kwa- 
jalein Island operation. They prowled in 
the forward area all night. Some incidents 
occurred as far to the rear as Corn Strong 
Point, more than a thousand yards from 
the 32d Infantry's advanced position. 51 
Japanese came out of shelters, screaming 
and yelling, throwing grenades, and 
charging at the men in foxholes. They fired 
rifles and threw grenades from buildings 
that offered places of advantage. In a 
pocket northeast of the Admiralty area, 
they greatly harassed the companies near 
them. 

Attacks from the north and from the 
lagoon shore were also attempted by en- 
emy troops at various times during the 
night. Just after sunset, a bugle could be 
heard sounding among the enemy shelters 
near the base of Nob Pier, and shortly 
afterward a headlong counterattack by 
screaming Japanese was. made toward 
Company E and Company G, 184th In- 
fantry. As the Japanese tried to cross Will 
Road, they were cut down to the last 
man. 52 Five prospective attacks were 
broken up before they were actually in 
progress by barrages along the entire front 
from mortars and from the supporting 
batteries of artillery on Carlson Island. 53 

Just before 0400, nevertheless, heavy 
enemy mortar and dual-purpose gunfire, 
which struck Companies I and L, 32d In- 
fantry, was closely followed by a surprise 



attack by an unknown number of enemy. 
This effort was beaten off and no other 
was tried for an hour. Then a second or- 
ganized attack came and was also repulsed 
by Companies I and L. 54 Sometime after 
midnight, an effort by a group of the en- 
emy to come ashore from the lagoon reef 
at a point opposite Company A, 184th In- 
fantry, was foiled by automatic fire. Infil- 
tration by individual Japanese was repeat- 
edly stopped in the Company A area. In 
the morning twenty-seven enemy dead 
were found there. 55 About 0530 an attack 
by from thirty to forty Japanese upon the 
front line of Company E, 184th Infantry, 
wilted under the bursts from the machine 
guns set up there. 56 This attempt was the 
last of the night's futile sorties by enemy 
groups. From various positions beyond 
Nathan Road, enemy machine gun, mor- 
tar, and artillery fire was directed into the 
forward area at irregular intervals during 
the night, sometimes coinciding so closely 
with the fire from Carlson Island that Jap- 
anese monitoring of the artillery radio was 
suspected. 57 

The 49th Field Artillery Battalion fired 
1 ,492 rounds of ammunition on Kwajalein 
Island between 1800 and 0600, and the 
47th Field Artillery Battalion fired 716. 58 
In position near Carl and Will Roads, the 
six 81-mm. mortars of the 3d Battalion, 
32d Infantry, sent approximately 1,500 
rounds into the enemy area after dark, and 
the 60-mm. mortars with the companies 

51 RGT 32Jnl, 3 Feb 44, p. 186; Marshall, Kwaja- 
lein Notes, Vol. I, p. 115. 

52 RGT 184 Jnl, 032000 Feb 44; Marshall, Kwaja- 
lein Notes, Vol. I, pp. 44-45. 

53 57th FA Bn AAR, p. 137. 

54 RGT 32 Jnl, 4 Feb 44, p. 189. 

55 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, p. 75. 

56 Ibid., p. 44. 

^ Ibid., pp. 115-16; 7th Inf Div Flintlock Rpt, 
Vol. XII, 7th Inf Div Arty Rpt, Jnl, 4 Feb 44, Msg 3. 
58 7th Inf Div Arty Rpt, Jnl, 4 Feb 44, p. 29. 



282 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



were also active. 59 Harassing fire ceased at 
0600 as the artillery was made ready for 
the morning's preparatory fire at 0700. 
The 49th Field Artillery Battalion, how- 
ever, shelled the northern end of the island 
during that period in the last of several 
attempts to silence enemy guns. 60 

Thus as dawn broke on the morning of 
4 February the men of the 32d and 184th 
Regiments prepared to make their final 
drive to the northern tip of Kwajalein Is- 
land. The complete capture of the island 
was taking longer than had been expected. 
In spite of the excellence of both naval 



gunfire and land-based artillery, this 
northern sector of Kwajalein had proved 
still to contain a sizable number of Japa- 
nese well concealed among the damaged 
buildings and in underground shelters and 
pillboxes. Infantrymen, engineers, and 
tanks, working separately and in co-or- 
dination, still had to feel their way cau- 
tiously among the remnants of the enemy's 
defenses. Another hard day's fighting re- 
mained ahead. 



59 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, p. 75. 

80 7th Inf Div Arty Rpt,Jnl, 4 Feb 44, Msg 21. 



CHAPTER XVII 



End of the Battle for 
Southern Kwajalein 



Kwajalein Island Secured 

Occupation of Kwajalein Island had 
reached an advanced stage by the morn- 
ing of 4 February. The end of enemy re- 
sistance during the day could definitely be 
anticipated. The advance from the western 
beach had covered more than three fourths 
of the island's length and considerably 
more than three fourths of its area. The 
stretch that remained was less than 1,000 
yards long and 400 yards wide, a section 
containing the ruins of about thirty build- 
ings amid the scorched and battered rem- 
nants of many trees. 1 The ground north of 
Nathan Road was divided into segments 
by four east-west roads at intervals of ap- 
proximately 100 yards and, some 300 
yards farther north, by the loop of the 
island highway. The ocean shore was 
studded with pillboxes, gun positions, ma- 
chine gun emplacements, antitank sea wall 
barricades, and shelters. Most of these 
works were oriented toward attack from 
the water rather than along the island 
from the south, and all had been heavily 
pounded by naval gunfire, artillery fire, 
and air bombing. The interior could be 
presumed to hold concrete shelters and 
earth-and-log bunkers resembling those 
that had proved to be such substantial ob- 
stacles to the advance of the previous day. 



Plans for the Attack of 4 February 

Plans for the attack on 4 February had 
been made during the night of the 3d in 
partial misconception of the actual loca- 
tion of the front-line troops. At division 
and regimental headquarters it was sup- 
posed that the Nob Pier-Nathan Road 
line had been reached. The 2d Battalion, 
184th Infantry, was understood to have 
reached the base of the pier, and the 3d 
Battalion, 3 2d Infantry, was believed to be 
on the Nathan Road line, from which the 
3 2d Infantry was to take over the entire 
assault to the end of the island. These esti- 
mates were based on the overoptimistic re- 
ports of the front-line units, issued the 
evening before, and had not been contra- 
dicted during the night. Nor was there full 
recognition of the condition of the areas 
directly behind the reported front lines. As 
indicated, the late afternoon drive on 3 
February had been pushed forward with 
little attention to the task of mopping up 
the enemy troops hiding under rubble 
piles, in shelters, and in the few buildings 
still left standing. Reserve units had not 
been able to complete the task. Until the 
remnants of the enemy force thus bypassed 
could be destroyed, confusion would exist, 



(Map 13) 



1 Terrain description drawn from 7th Inf Div Opns 
Map, JICPOA Bull 48-44. 



END OF THE BATTLE FOR SOUTHERN KWAJALEIN 



285 



communications would be disrupted, and 
the attack delayed. 

An exact knowledge of the location of 
various units still could not be had as 
morning approached. Company and bat- 
talion commanders did not know where 
many of the components of their units 
were, and radio contact with the rear con- 
tinued to be poor. In the 184th Infantry 
zone of action, moreover, one entire sec- 
tion of enemy-held territory — that south of 
Nob Pier between Will Road and the la- 
goon — had not even been entered, al- 
though regimental and division headquar- 
ters assumed that it had been seized. The 
2d Battalion, 184th Infantry, which had 
been charged with the capture of this 
ground, had failed to enter it by dark on 3 
February and planned to complete its mis- 
sion early the next morning. 

Regimental orders for the 32d Infantry 
attack of 4 February called for the 1st Bat- 
talion to attack through the front lines held 
by the 3d Battalion, 3 2d Infantry, and by 
the 2d Battalion, 184th Infantry. It was to 
jump off at 07 15, following fifteen minutes 
of preparatory fire by artillery and naval 
guns. 2 In order to execute this attack, how- 
ever, it was thought necessary to get all 
companies of the 1st Battalion into position 
before dawn. Company A was to form the 
right of the battalion line, Company B the 
center, and Company C the left. At the 
moment this plan was decided upon, Com- 
panies A and B were in reserve some dis- 
tance to the left rear of the 3d Battalion 
line, and Company C was stretched out 
across the rear of the front in a badly dis- 
organized state. The weapons platoon of 
the latter company was "missing" after 
becoming involved in the previous night's 
counterattack, having actually pulled back 
to the ocean shore. 

To launch the attack as early as possible, 



Colonel Logie about midnight ordered 1st 
Lt. Robert J. Kretzer, the Company C 
commander, to move his men to the la- 
goon side of the island before dawn. Com- 
pany A would relieve Company C in its 
earlier position at approximately 0230. 
Lieutenant Kretzer, realizing that such a 
movement would be extremely dangerous 
under the conditions then existing behind 
the front lines, made a personal recon- 
naissance of the route his company would 
follow and visited the command posts of 
the 184th's advance companies, notifying 
them that Company C would be moving 
through the area later in the night. 

Company A arrived in the area behind 
the front lines at 0230, as ordered, but be- 
cause of the confusion the relief was not 
completed until 0400. By that time the 
moon had gone down, but fires and flares 
still cast enough light over the area to 
silhouette moving men. Lieutenant Kretzer 
executed his move to the lagoon shore in 
the simplest manner possible. After or- 
ganizing his company, he simply faced 
them to the left and marched them west- 
ward in a long column. At one time two of 
the platoons became separated in the 
debris, but they found each other again 
quite accidentally. At another time the 
column passed close to a Japanese shelter. 
The men could hear the enemy soldiers 
talking inside. As the rear marched along 
the side of the dugout, four enemy soldiers 
came charging out of it straight for the last 
few men. A Japanese officer, swinging a 
saber and yelling, threw a grenade from 
about thirty feet away. The Americans, 
who could see the trail of sparks as it sailed 
toward them, scattered in all directions. 
Two men were wounded in the explosion, 
but the four Japanese were all killed in ex- 



2 RCT 32 Jnl, 3 Feb 44, pp. 182-83. 



286 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



change. During the rest of the march two 
other Company C men were hit in the legs 
by rifle fire. By 0530 the company was in 
position somewhere in the rear of the 184th 
Infantry line. 3 

Morning Attack of 4 February 

Sunrise on 4 February came at a few 
minutes after 0700. It found the forward 
elements of the attacking force inter- 
mingled with the defending enemy in a 
wide zone between Noel and Nathan 
Roads. The attack began in considerable 
confusion. Companies A and B, 32d In- 
fantry, moved forward on the right accord- 
ing to plan. Supporting tanks were with 
them from the start. Ten medium tanks 
preceded the main body of the infantry by 
about fifty yards, and four light tanks 
moved along the ocean beach. Before 
either company reached the front-line 
positions of the 3d Battalion, however, 
they had become involved in a full-scale 
battle with the Japanese who had been by- 
passed the day before and who now poured 
heavy fire on the companies as they ad- 
vanced toward the line of departure. By 
0730 the 32d Infantry attack had almost 
stalled as groups of infantrymen turned 
aside to clean out the positions that poured 
fire into their ranks. It was not until 1000 
that the two 1st Battalion companies 
reached the lines held by the 3d Battalion. 
Company L, 32d Infantry, was finally 
pinched out by Company B at 1030. 4 

Until after 1000 the whereabouts of 
Company C on the lagoon side of the 
island was unknown at the 32d Infantry 
command post because of failure of the 
company's radio communications. 5 During 
this period Lieutenant Kretzer found him- 
self confronted by a peculiar situation. The 
2d Battalion, 184th Infantry, was still fol- 



lowing the orders issued to it the day 
before and, despite the presence of Com- 
pany C in its rear, it proceeded to com- 
plete mopping up the last 300 yards be- 
tween it and Nathan Road as well as the 
area between Will Road and the lagoon. 
Without further orders from his own bat- 
talion, Lieutenant Kretzer could do noth- 
ing but wait until the units to the front 
moved out of his way. 6 

As many Japanese had been bypassed in 
the 184th's zone as had been overlooked on 
the ocean side of the island. Company G, 
184th Infantry, had serious difficulty even 
in organizing the attack upon which Lieu- 
tenant Kretzer's unit was waiting. Besides 
withstanding counterattacks, Company G 
had been under fire in its perimeter 
throughout the night from enemy riflemen 
firing from every direction but west. When 
daylight came, riflemen — especially in 
buildings along the eastern edge of the 
perimeter — pinned the unit down and pre- 
vented it from forming for an attack at 
0715. Low in ammunition, hampered by 
unevacuated wounded, and facing an ex- 
tensive air raid shelter in the center of the 
perimeter in which a large contingent of 
the enemy was believed to have taken 
refuge, the company decided to await the 
arrival of tanks. When the tanks arrived, 
fire was directed into the shelter, and the 
first large-scale surrender on Kwajalein 
took place. Thirty-one Koreans and one 
Japanese scurried out of the structure with 
their hands up and much of their clothing 
removed. One of the tanks herded them to 
the rear. 7 

Company C, 3 2d Infantry, began the 



3 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, p. 90. 

4 RCT 32 Jnl, 4 Feb 44, pp. 197-99. 

5 Ibid., p. 197. 

6 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, p. 91. 

7 Ibid., pp. 76-77; BLT 184-2 Rpt, p. 9. 



END OF THE BATTLE FOR SOUTHERN KWAJALEIN 



287 



day by capturing many prisoners while 
waiting for the battalion ahead of it to 
move. Aided by tanks of Company B, 
767th Tank Battalion, the platoon on the 
left brought five Koreans up from an un- 
derground shelter. Then, covering the 
Koreans with BAR's, the unit moved from 
shelter to shelter while the prisoners per- 
suaded others to surrender. In less than an 
hour thirty-three of the enemy were taken 
in this fashion. 8 

In the area between the Admiralty ruins 
and Noel Road the 1st Battalion, 184th 
Infantry, began mopping up at daybreak. 
When at 0830 an order was received from 
the regimental commander to send one 
company to participate in the assault, 
Company B was attached to the 2d Battal- 
ion, which ordered it to attack along the 
lagoon shore from the northern limit of the 
1st Battalion's night perimeter. 9 The com- 
pany moved along Will Road in columns 
of platoons, crossed its line of departure at 
approximately 0900, and worked through 
the area in the rear of Companies E and G, 
at the same time swinging toward the 
lagoon. 10 

The action of Company B, as had been 
hoped by Colonel O'Sullivan, commander 
of the 184th Infantry, cleared out many of 
the Japanese who had been harassing the 
2d Battalion and gave Company C, 32d 
Infantry, a chance to move through the 
front lines and proceed with its attack to 
the north. At approximately 1100 Lieu- 
tenant Kretzer pushed his company be- 
yond Nathan Road for the first time, and 
shortly before 1200 the unit came abreast 
1st Battalion, 32d Infantry, the right flank 
of which had reached Nate Road, two 
hundred yards north of Nathan, in a badly 
disorganized condition a short time be- 
fore. 11 Some of the tanks were approxi- 
mately three hundred yards ahead, ap- 



proaching the northern highway loop, but 
orders had been issued for the 1st Battalion 
to halt its advance pending relief by the 2d 
Battalion, 32d Infantry. The latter unit 
was to carry the battle for Kwajalein 
Island through to the end. 

Completion of the Mission of the 
184th Infantry 

At daylight on 4 February the actual 
disposition of the forward troops became 
known to 184th Infantry headquarters, 
and the plan of attack in that regiment's 
zone was modified. The movement of 
Company B, 184th Infantry, and the use 
of Japanese-speaking teams to induce sur- 
render were the earliest of several steps 
taken to restore motion to the northward 
attack and to control the enemy within the 
area south of Nathan Road. To drive to 
Nob Pier and secure that structure, "the 
remnants of all three companies" of the 2d 
Battalion were placed under the command 
of Capt. Rene E. Maysonave of Company 
G, with orders to bypass Company B 
whenever B should be held up. 12 Shortly 
after 1300 Captain Maysonave's consoli- 
dated unit swept by Company B's right 
wing and took up the attack on the base of 
Nob Pier. The 2d Battalion cut off any 
enemy withdrawal across Nathan Road 
and sent patrols, by tank, on foot, and in a 
small boat, out to the pier's end. No enemy 
was found on the pier. 13 By 1435 all re- 
sistance had ceased along the lagoon side 
of the island from Nob Pier back to Green 
Beach 4. 

The surrender of a considerable number 

8 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, p. 91. 

9 BLT 184-1 OpnsRpt, p. 10. 

10 BLT 184-2 Rpt, p. 9. 

11 RCT 32 Jnl, 4 Feb 44, p. 203. 

12 BLT 184-2 Rpt, p. 9. 

13 RCT 184 Jnl, 041350 Feb 44. 



288 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



of Japanese and Koreans continued to be 
a notable feature of the action of 4 Febru- 
ary. Only a remnant of the original garri- 
son was still capable of fighting. Fragments 
of the enemy force, after several days in 
isolation and without water, abandoned 
their shelters. From the first hour of the 
renewed attack until darkness, the com- 
pounds filled with a stream of prisoners. 

Maj. Jackson C. Gillis, intelligence offi- 
cer of the 184th Infantry, accompanied 
Company B with a loudspeaker and a nisei 
interpreter. After heavy tank fire on shel- 
ters, the loudspeaker went into action. The 
enemy was promised food and water and 
immunity from further harm if he came 
out and surrendered. When the loud- 
speaker broke down, prisoners were re- 
cruited to talk directly to the men in the 
shelters, in some cases even going down 
among them. Though two Koreans were 
tortured by the Japanese in one shelter 
that they entered on such a mission, before 
the end of the morning over ninety pris- 
oners were taken by the 184th. The 32d 
Infantry used the same method beyond 
Nathan Road. 14 

The Afternoon Attack of the 2d Battalion, 
32d Infantry 

The 2d Battalion, 32d Infantry, passed 
through the 1st Battalion at 1345 to com- 
plete the assault along Kwajalein Island. 15 
All forward movement of the 1st Battalion 
had stopped, its line consisting of a series of 
small, exhausted groups in a dense confu- 
sion of debris. The ground was interlaced 
with innumerable trenches and foul with 
bodies of the enemy, many of them long 
dead. Some of the corpses had been man- 
gled by maneuvering tanks, adding greatly 
to the nauseating stench that blighted the 
area. 16 



Company F, on the right, held its posi- 
tion until Company G brought the left 
wing in line; then both advanced. After 
going for seventy-five yards, Company F 
and its seven supporting tanks came to a 
large blockhouse into which the tanks di- 
rected their fire. While Company F was 
thus engaged, Company G moved ahead 
for about a hundred yards, occasionally 
coming under fire from Company F. Both 
companies eventually resumed their prog- 
ress with the left still far advanced; they 
cleared the surface and underground shel- 
ters of living enemy all the way to Nero 
Point at the end of the island. Camouflaged 
dugouts and ruined concrete blockhouses 
and shelters contained Japanese against 
whom it was necessary to employ scores of 
satchel charges, hundreds of grenades, and, 
ultimately, flame throwers. 

The 1st Platoon, Company G, on the 
extreme left, reached Nero Point at 1515 
and reported its arrival to the regimental 
command post. The men then sat around 
on the beach and discussed the battle, ob- 
livious of further combat behind them. 

The 3d Platoon, Company F, nearer the 
island's center, in the meantime came upon 
three long concrete shelters, side by side. 
The first was sixty feet long and about six 
feet above ground. Its left end had been 
blown off and a hole had been broken in 
the top near the right end, but the remain- 
der held some of the enemy. Under com- 
mand of S. Sgt. Raymond Borucki, the 
platoon started to pass the structure after 
hurling two satchel charges in an entrance. 



» RCT 32 Jnl, 4 Feb 44, p. 204; RCT 184 Jnl, 
041349 Feb 44. 

15 RCT 32 Jnl, 4 Feb 44, p. 207. 

16 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. I, pp. 102ff. Un- 
less otherwise noted, the action of the 3 2d Infantry on 
the afternoon of 4 February is drawn from this ac- 
count. 



END OF THE BATTLE FOR SOUTHERN KWAJALEIN 



289 



Finding that living enemy were still inside, 
they then threw in more heavy demolition 
charges and many grenades. Pvt. Elmer 
Collins and Pfc. Franklin S. Farr volun- 
teered to investigate. They crawled to a 
door, walked in, and found themselves fac- 
ing several of the enemy. Firing as fast as 
they could, they hurriedly backed out, 
dropped to the ground, and threw in gre- 
nades while their comrades fired into the 
doorway. Another squad covered a second 
entrance most effectively. When Collins 
and Farr re-entered, the only man they 
saw alive was the leader of the other squad, 
S. Sgt. Eugene M. Rider; he had just come 
in through the other entrance on the same 
mission. All the enemy were dead. After 
this operation, which required nearly half 
an hour, the 3d Platoon, Company F, took 
the two remaining shelters in a similar 
manner. 

Machine gun bullets began to whine 
over the heads of the 1st Platoon, Company 
G, on the beach. The men investigated. 
Soon they were back in action, mopping 
up circular 5-inch twin-mount gun posi- 
tions and other places concealing small 
numbers of the enemy, and helping to 
establish a cordon within which to confine 
the remnants of the enemy at the island's 
tip. 

Company F's methodical movement 
among the enemy positions in its path sub- 
jected it to well-aimed rifle fire, which in- 
flicted numerous casualties and delayed 
the last stages of the battle. Obstinate Jap- 
anese resistance continued as evening 
approached. About 1900, Captain Pence, 
commanding Company G, walked over to 
Company F's area to confer with Capt. 
Mark E. Barber, and was shot by an ob- 
servant enemy rifleman before he could 
heed the warning shouts of men in Com- 
pany F's forward line. Even with the 



battle's end so near, the troops became 
increasingly cautious. 

At dusk tanks were brought up to reduce 
the last 150 yards of the island. The tanks 
remained for only a few minutes, but they 
either drove to cover or killed the enemy 
riflemen who had been pinning down 
Company F. The attack again got under- 
way and continued until 1920, when the 
entire northern end of the island was 
secured. 

Even before that time, General Corlett 
had announced the island of Kwajalein 
secured. At 1610 he radioed to Admiral 
Turner: "All organized resistance . . . has 
ceased. The troops have been organized 
for mopping up operations." 17 

The cost of the fourth day's fighting had 
been somewhat higher than that of the 
preceding day. The number killed in 
action on Kwajalein Island and adjacent 
Burton Island came to 65; 252 men were 
wounded. 18 

The operation had been a model one in 
almost every respect. The attacking force 
had achieved strategic surprise. The Japa- 
nese were not expecting a landing in the 
central Marshalls and were generally un- 
prepared to meet one when it came. To a 
degree, even tactical surprise was won 
since it was obvious that the enemy was 
better prepared to meet an invasion either 
from the lagoon shore or from the ocean 
side than from the end of the island where 
it came. Except for the occasional failure 
of tank-infantry co-ordination, no impor- 
tant deficiency had been revealed in the 
execution of the plan. Artillery prepara- 
tion, naval gunfire, and aerial bombard- 
ment had softened up the target in a fash- 
ion unexcelled at any other time in the 

17 RCT 32 Jnl, 4 Feb 44, p. 212. 

18 7th Inf Div Flintlock Rpt, Vol. VII, G-4 Rpt, 
p. 127, Annex C, Incl 3. 



290 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



Pacific war. The ship-to-shore movement 
had been conducted expeditiously and 
without serious hitch. Supplies flowed 
ashore and to the front lines smoothly and 
without interruption. The infantry-engi- 
neer teams assisted by tanks moved 
steadily, if somewhat more slowly than had 
been anticipated, up the axis of the island 
clearing the enemy from shelters and pill- 
boxes. American casualties were light. 
All together, the battle for Kwajalein 
Island represented the ideal for all military 
operations — a good plan, ably executed. 

Completing the Conquest of Southern 
Kwajalein 

The Southern Attack Force, which had 
captured Kwajalein Island after estab- 
lishing supporting units on Carlson, Car- 
los, and the channel islands, was also 
charged with the seizure of the many other 
islets and coral outcroppings of southern 
Kwajalein Atoll north as far as Bennett 
Island (Bigej) on the eastern leg of the 
atoll and Cohen Island (Ennugenligg elap) 
on the southwestern leg. (See Map 9.) Run- 



ning north from Kwajalein Island on the 
eastern leg, these included in order, Byron, 
Buster, Burton (Ebeye), Burnet, Blaken- 
ship (Loi), Beverly (South Gugegwe), Ber- 
lin (North Gugegwe), Benson, and Ben- 
nett. 19 Running north from Chauncey 
(Gehh) lay Chester, Clarence (Torrulj), 
Clement (Mann), Clifford (Legan), Clif- 
ton (Eller), and Cohen. No specific times 
for the capture of these outlying islands 
had been set, since the situation on Kwa- 
jalein Island was to be the determining 
factor in governing the timing of the land- 
ings on each. 

Chauncey Island 

During 1 February the troops that had 
landed by mistake on Chauncey Island 



that morning were removed without com- 
pleting the occupation. The infantry went 
to Cecil Island, and the reconnaissance 
troops were brought back aboard their 
high-speed transport, Overton. Only a small 
force of eleven sailors was left to guard the 
barges on the nearby reef, but when the 
enemy opened fire on these men it was de- 
cided to send reinforcements ashore from 
Overton and complete the occupation of the 
island without further delay. 20 

Between 0800 and 0900 on 2 February 
elements of the 7th Reconnaissance Troop 
landed from Overton on the northwestern 
end of Chauncey. Four 60-mm. mortars 
were set up at once and began a searching 
fire over the island. For twenty minutes 
the APD also shelled the ocean side. 21 
Three platoons formed abreast and moved 
along the island through the thick woods, 
with the headquarters platoon in the cen- 
ter rear. None of the enemy was discov- 
ered until the left wing of the line had 
reached that part of the island opposite the 
beached tugboat. Then the silence was 
broken by heavy machine gun and rifle 
fire, falling mostly on the left center of the 
American force. 22 

A long mound of earth, about five feet 
high and sloping at both ends, was discov- 
ered to be undefended. Investigation of the 
end of the mound brought rifle fire from 
nearby trees, and it soon became apparent 
that the Japanese were concentrated about 
twenty yards beyond the mound in a shal- 
low trench behind a rock parapet. Over 
their heads was a tent, camouflaged with 

19 Byron, Buster, Burnet, and Benson had no known 
native names. See JICPOA Bull 53-43, 1 Dec 43, map 
facing p. 2; 7th Inf Div Flintlock Rpt, Vol. II, FO 1, 
19 Feb 44, map. 

20 7th Gav Ren Tr Rpt, p. 6. 

21 Ibid., p. 7. 

22 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. II, pp. 22-27. 
Unless otherwise noted, the account of the capture of 
Chauncey Island is drawn from this source. 



END OF THE BATTLE FOR SOUTHERN KWAJALEIN 



291 



palm fronds and masked by the deep 
shade of tropical vegetation. 

To overcome this position the 1st and 3d 
Platoons, on the flanks, moved forward far 
enough to assault the position obliquely, 
while the 2d Platoon crawled near enough 
to direct machine gun fire at the parapet 
and to throw grenades into the position 
beyond it. For about forty-five minutes a 
fire fight ensued, and only after a bazooka 
rocket exploded inside the tent in which 
the Japanese were concealed were they 
finally subdued. 

A count of the enemy dead revealed 
that sixty-five had fallen in the action. Out 
on the tugboat, to which troopers of the 2d 
Platoon rowed in rubber boats, twelve 
others were found dead, possibly from 
shelling by Overton. In a small landing 
barge were thirteen others, and along the 
beach were thirty-five more probably 
killed by air attacks earlier in the day. 
While the American flag was being raised 
on the beached Japanese tugboat, charts 
and other documents were found con- 
taining intelligence material that was to 
prove of considerable assistance in com- 
pleting the capture of Kwajalein. The 
rest of Chauncey was soon secured without 
further trouble. The total American loss 
on the island that day was fourteen 
wounded. 23 

Burton Island 

Among the islands in southern Kwaja- 
lein known to have Japanese garrisons, 
Burton was believed to be second to Kwa- 
jalein Island in importance. A plan for its 
capture was prepared before and during 
the approach from the Hawaiian Islands, 
and perfected after arrival at the atoll. 
The assault forces were to be drawn from 
the 17th Infantry. 24 

This regiment had completed its mission 



of taking Carlos and Carlson Islands on 31 
January and had been assembled on Car- 
los to reorganize and re-equip while hold- 
ing itself in readiness on 1 February to 
support the attack on Kwajalein Island, if 
necessary. When such employment was 
deemed to be unlikely, it was decided to 
make the landing on Burton Island at 
0930 on 3 February. 25 

Terrain and Enemy Defenses 

The southern extremity of Burton Is- 
land is less than three miles north of Kwa- 
jalein Island, and there are two minute 
outcroppings of the atoll reef between 
them. Along a straight axis, Burton ex- 
tends almost directly north for 1 ,800 yards, 
its width being an unvarying 250 yards. 
The southern end curves to the southwest 
and is shaped somewhat like the bow of a 
freighter; the northern shore line runs 



(Map 14) 



squarely east and west. 

Before being heavily bombardedj it had 
had more than 120 machine shops, ware- 
houses, and other buildings. Coconut 
palms dotted most of the island, but along 
the ocean shore the major vegetation was 
sand brush and small mangrove trees. The 
most conspicuous clearing was a concrete 
apron for seaplanes, extending 100 yards 
in width for about 300 yards along the 
lagoon shore in the northern quarter of the 
island. Jutting a hundred yards into the 
lagoon from the apron were two concrete 
seaplane ramps, and nearby were large 
hangars and repair shops. From the south- 
ern edge of the hangar area to the south- 
western point of the island, a narrow, sur- 
faced road paralleled the lagoon beach 



23 7th Cav Ren Tr Rpt, p. 8. 

24 RCT 17 Rpt, p. 5. 

25 Ibid., S-3 Rpt, p. 3. 

26 7th Inf Div Flintlock Rpt, Vol. II, 7th Inf Div 
FO 4, 1 Feb 44, Opns Map. 




MAP M 



END OF THE BATTLE FOR SOUTHERN KWAJALEIN 



293 





BURTON (EBEYE) ISLAND from the air. The tip of Kwajalein is visible in upper right. 



for 1,200 yards. From the northern side of 
the seaplane area, a curving road with 
several spurs ran to the northwestern 
point. Trails extended along the ocean 
shore. 

In addition to the seaplane area and the 
roads, one of the most noticeable of the en- 
emy's improvements at Burton Island was 
a concrete pier 160 yards long extending 
into the lagoon from a point almost mid- 
way along the coast. Known to the attack- 
ing force as Bailey Pier, it was shaped like 
an L, with the arm jutting north at right 
angles to the main stem, but with a spur 
extending obliquely southwest halfway out 
from shore. At the pier's base were several 
buildings and two high radio masts. 

Preliminary air reconnaissance indi- 



cated that Burton was defended by pill- 
boxes and machine gun emplacements 
near the beaches and surrounding the sea- 
plane area. The enemy had evidently 
originally expected an attack to come from 
the ocean side, where the shore could be 
more closely approached by ships of deep 
draught. Prepared positions had been or- 
ganized to meet such an assault. Much at- 
tention had recently been given, however, 
to defense of the lagoon side. On the la- 
goon beach and near the hangars a num- 
ber of pillboxes and machine gun emplace- 
ments had been spotted. One heavy and 
eight medium antiaircraft guns had also 
been observed near the apron. 27 

27 JIGPOA Bull 48-44, pp. 2 Iff. Also see above, Gh. 
XIII, p. 23. 



294 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 




JAPANESE ENTRENCHMENTS ON BURTON 



The lagoon beach had been designated 
by the invading force as Orange and 
marked off into four sections, of which that 
farthest south was known as Orange 4. On 
Orange 4, a stretch about five hundred 
yards in length, the defenses seemed light- 
est, and here the landing was to be made. 
After getting ashore and making a left 
turn, the attacking force would move 
northward along the axis of the island. 28 

On 2 February, Maj. Maynard E. 
Weaver, executive officer of the 1st Battal- 
ion, 17th Infantry, with engineer officers 
and representatives of other elements of 
the regiment, made an offshore reconnais- 
sance of Burton Island from the destroyer 
Franks, which was supplemented by a two- 
hour seaplane flight by Major Weaver. 
These investigations confirmed the earlier 



choice of Orange 4 and revealed defenses 
that had been concealed by vegetation be- 
fore the bombardment. 29 

The Landings and First Day's Action 

The 17th Infantry was to hit Orange 
Beach at 0930, 3 February. The last de- 
tails of the assault plan, including naval 
participation, were co-ordinated during 
the night of 2-3 February. 30 The first four 
waves of the 1st Battalion had already em- 
barked from Carlos Island in two LST's, 
and the first waves of the 3d Battalion were 
in two other LST's. The 2d Battalion, in 
reserve, was in a transport equipped with 
LCVP's. 

28 7th Inf Div FO 4, 1 Feb 44, Opns Map and p. 1. 

29 RCT 17 Rpt, p. 5. 

30 Ibid., S-3 Rpt, p. 3. 



END OF THE BATTLE FOR SOUTHERN KWAJALEIN 



295 



To support the landing, not only the 
platoon of light tanks from Company D, 
767th Tank Battalion, but also the seven- 
teen mediums of Company C that had 
been landed by error on Kwajalein Island, 
were assigned to the force. The amphibian 
tanks of Company A, 708th Amphibian 
Tank Battalion, were also ready. During 
the night the regimental field order for the 
attack was distributed. Harassing artillery 
fire was thrown at Burton from the 155- 
mm. howitzers emplaced on Carlson, sup- 
plementing the pounding that had been 
given the island by the guns of Minneapolis 
and San Francisco during the afternoon. 31 

The landings on Orange Beach 4 fol- 
lowed the standard pattern. At 0730 the 
5-inch and 8-inch guns began firing. 32 
Half an hour later the artillery on Carlson 
Island again opened fire. The 145th Field 
Artillery Battalion sent 981 rounds of 155- 
mm., while the 31st and 48th Battalions 
fired so intense a barrage of 105-mm. that 
the enemy were driven to cover and the 
ground over which the attack was to move 
was devastated. 33 The bombardment was 
suspended for an air strike from 0845 to 
0906 in which carrier planes dropped 
thirty-three tons of general purpose bombs 
and fired 88,000 rounds of .50-caliber am- 
munition. Artillery fire was lifted inland 
at 0933 and farther inland at 0951. The 
bombardment had been so effective that at 
the beach itself and for the first two hun- 
dred yards no live enemy was encoun- 
tered. 34 

The 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry, com- 
manded by Colonel Hartl, landed in 
LVT's with two companies abreast. De- 
spite the mechanical failure of one tractor 
and a collision between two others, the first 
three waves made the shore without casu- 
alty. 35 An LCI gunboat moved shoreward 
on each flank of the first wave, blasting the 



area near the beach with rockets and ma- 
chine gun fire. The amphibian tanks and 
tractors directed their machine guns into 
the few palm trees that still retained 
enough foliage to conceal snipers. At vari- 
ous points about 150 yards offshore the 
reef was hit, and then the tractors ground 
their way through the foamy water to 
make the beach at 0935. 36 Far off at the 
left, a machine gun on the end of the pier 
fired among the boats of the fourth wave 
and caused the first casualties of the land- 
ing. Four men were wounded. An LVT 
containing artillery observers drew ma- 
chine gun fire from Buster Island but this 
was quickly silenced by counterfire from 
the 31st Field Artillery Battalion. 37 While 
the men still afloat were meeting the fire, 
those on shore reorganized and formed a 
line of attack. 

Company A, under Capt. Richard H. 
Natzke, was on the right and Company C, 
commanded by 1st Lt. George E. Line- 
baugh, was on the left, each reinforced by 
a platoon of heavy machine guns from 
Company D. Company B, the remainder 
of Company D, and one platoon from the 
50th Engineer Battalion were in reserve. 
After traversing the southern end of the 
island, the line started toward the north- 
ern end. The amphibian tanks moved at 
its left flank, pouring fire ahead of the 
troops. The ground was thoroughly torn 
up and strewn with debris, but few enemy 

31 145th FA Bn AAR, p. 1 72; TF 5 1 Marshalls Rpt, 
Incl E, p. 4. 

32 TF 51 Marshalls Rpt, Incl E, App 2, p. 10. 

33 7th Inf Div Flintlock Rpt, Vol. XII, 7th Inf Dlv 
Arty Rpt, Jnl, 3 Feb 44, Msgs 13, 87; 31st FA Bn 
AAR, Jnl, p. 90; 145th FA Bn AAR, p. 1 73. 

34 7th Inf Dlv Arty Rpt, Jnl, 3 Feb 44, Msgs 23, 26; 
RCT 17 Jnl, 3 Feb 44, Msg 17; TF 51 Marshalls Rpt, 
Incl F, p. 5. 

35 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. II, pp. 31, 42. 

36 RCT 17 Jnl, 3 Feb 44, Msg 14. 

37 3 1st FA Bn AAR, p. 68. 



296 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 




JAPANESE BOMBPROOF SHELTER of reinforced concrete and steel. Note steel door 
visible in the lower part of the entrance. 



dead were seen. Almost an hour passed 
after the first wave hit the beach before the 
first general contact with the enemy was 
made. When the battalion was stretched 
across the island on a line even with the 
northern limit of Orange Beach 4, it re- 
ceived small arms fire at all points. The 
enemy had come up from shelters after the 
artillery barrage moved northward and 
was taking full advantage of the plentiful 
cover. Bursts of Japanese machine gun fire 
swept diagonally across the front from 
positions near the beaches. 38 

Supporting tanks began to cross the 
landing beaches at 101 6. 39 They assem- 
bled at the southwestern point of the island 
and then struggled through the rubble 
north toward the line of attack. A tank 
trap across the island was easily passed, 



but the island was too narrow to make use 
of more than four tanks on the line at a 
time, and co-ordination with the infantry 
was unsatisfactory. 40 

The attacking force met its strongest op- 
position on the extreme left, along the la- 
goon shore, where Company C bore the 
brunt. At the right, movement was delib- 
erately retarded to keep the line even; 
Company A could have gone forward 
much more rapidly than it did. Enemy 
resistance consisted of individual and 
small-group activity, without apparent 
general plan or direction. Japanese troops 



38 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. II, pp. 32-33, 
43. 

39 7th Inf Div Flintlock Rpt, Vol. VI, 7th Inf Div 
G-3Jnl, 3 Feb 44, Msg 39. 

40 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. II, pp. 34-35. 



END OF THE BATTLE FOR SOUTHERN KWAJALEIN 



297 



were armed with .25-caliber rifles, 7.7- 
mm. and 13-mm. machine guns, and one 
77-mm. dual-purpose antiaircraft gun that 
was still in operation after the bombard- 
ment. Some of the Japanese, and even the 
Korean laborers among them, had taken 
up crudely improvised dynamite throwers 
and spears made of bayonets attached to 
poles. 41 

Most machine gun positions were elimi- 
nated by directed artillery or mortar fire. 
Some were destroyed by tanks. In the for- 
ward line demolition charges were used by 
the infantrymen, while combat engineers 
worked among the supporting elements. 
The enemy, following a pattern of be- 
havior now familiar to the American 
troops, remained in shelters until they were 
blasted out by explosive charges, flame 
throwers, and sometimes bazookas. Holes 
were made by repeated point-blank fire 
from the 75-mm. guns of the tanks and by 
the self-propelled M8's, of which four 
came ashore in the afternoon. More often, 
hand-placed charges were used to create 
working space for flame throwers. Al- 
though this type of work on the larger 
shelters was frequently left for the engi- 
neers by the advancing front-line infantry, 
the work of the 1st Battalion in eliminating 
riflemen lurking in rubble heaps and 
among the trees was very thorough and 
the advance, while persistent, was slow. 
The rear was well secured. 42 

Progress on the extreme left wing was 
slowed not only by the many active pill- 
boxes but also by the large number of in- 
dividual rifle pits in which the enemy lay 
concealed under palm fronds, waiting as 
usual for opportunities to fire or to throw 
grenades upon our troops from behind. 
First the 2d Platoon, Company C, and 
then the 3d carried the advance in this 
zone. The 3d thoroughly cleared one hole 



after another and in one place eliminated 
a group of the enemy firing from a large 
excavated pigpen. 43 

Although one tank had made an ad- 
vanced reconnaissance as far as the base of 
Bailey Pier, the line was about a hundred 
yards south of the pier when, shortly be- 
fore 1700, Company B passed through 
Company C to take over the front at the 
left. About 1900 consolidation for the 
night began. The forward elements of the 
1st Battalion were strung across the island 
on a line just south of Bailey Pier, and the 
area inland from the landing beaches and 
to the rear of the 1st Battalion was covered 
by the 3d Battalion. 44 

Evacuated from Burton Island during 3 
February were twenty litter cases and 
twenty-three ambulatory wounded. The 
1st and 3d Platoons, Company A, 7th 
Medical Battalion, had landed within the 
first ten minutes, set up a collecting station 
near the beach, and operated together 
under company control. They had used 
five V4-ton trucks converted to ambulances 
and had also served as the shore party 
medical section in evacuating wounded by 
LVT's to ships. 45 

On Burton during the night of 3-4 Feb- 
ruary constant illumination and artillery, 
mortar, machine gun, and naval fire 
helped to to forestall any counterattack 
that might have been organized. An en- 
emy 77-mm. dual-purpose gun was si- 
lenced by the intermittent counterbattery 
fire of 81-mm. mortars, which was later 



41 Ibid., pp. 36-38; RCT 17 Rpt, p. 7. 

42 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. II, pp. 35-36; 
RCT 17 Rpt, Engineers Rpt, p. 3. 

43 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. II, pp. 48-51. 

44 RCT 17 Jnl, 3 Feb 44, Msg 102; 7th Inf Div 
Flintlock Rpt, Vol. VIII, S-3 Periodic Rpt No. 2, 3 
Feb 44. 

45 RCT 17 Rpt, Medical Rpt, Flintlock, p. 52; 7th 
Inf Div Med Bn AAR, p. 14. 



298 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



found to have killed several Japanese relief 
crews. In the half light of dawn the enemy 
attempted several counterattacks, none of 
which materialized into any serious 
threats. The last was broken up at about 
0700 with the aid of called artillery con- 
centrations. 46 

Completion of the Conquest of Burton 

When on the second morning the attack 
was resumed at 0730, the main enemy re- 
sistance had shifted to the eastern side of 
the island. The Japanese had reoccupied 
four pillboxes close to the American front 
line on the ocean side, and were able to 
hold up Company A until, with the aid of 
self-propelled mounts, the company took 
the positions. 47 During the morning, a 
flight of five Navy bombers made two runs 
over targets that had been spotted with the 
aid of information from a prisoner. The 
planes dropped a total of two and three- 
quarters tons on an ammunition dump, a 
shelter, and a heavy machine gun that had 
an excellent field of fire across the hangar 
apron. Direct hits on these targets appar- 
ently disheartened the enemy. Not a single 
shot was fired by them at any later time 
during the operation. 48 They remained 
buried in their dugouts until forced out or 
until they killed themselves. 

By 1 130, when the 3d Battalion passed 
through and took up the assault, Company 
B had moved about 350 yards to the 
southern edge of the concrete apron, and 
on the right Company A was fifty to 
seventy-five yards farther back. On the left 
Company L advanced behind the tanks 
across the open area, while on the right 
Company K pushed swiftly through the 
heavily bombarded section of hangars, re- 
pair shops, small buildings, trenches, and 
shelters, arriving at the northeastern cor- 



ner of the island at 1210. After this the last 
of the enemy were readily mopped up. By 
1337 the island was fully secured. 49 

The official estimate of the enemy 
dead totaled almost 450. Seven Japanese 
were captured. The 17th Infantry lost 
seven killed in action. Eighty-two were 
wounded. 50 

Final Mop-up 

During the two days in which Burton 
Island was being captured (3 and 4 Febru- 
ary), two pairs of smaller islands south and 
north of it were also brought under Amer- 
ican control. Detachments of amphibian 
tanks were dispatched on 3 February to 
Buster and Byron, two tiny outcroppings 
above the main reef between Kwajalein 
and Burton. The amphibian tanks met no 
opposition. Troops of the 2d Battalion, 
1 7th Infantry, landed the following day on 
Burnet and Blakenship north of Burton. 
On the former, about forty natives cheer- 
fully submitted to capture. On the latter, 
somewhat more than a score of marooned 
Japanese sailors and Korean laborers had 
to be clubbed or bayonetted into submis- 
sion before the island could be declared 
secure at 1212. 51 

For the continuation of the mop-up on 
5 February, the 2d Battalion, 17th Infan- 
try, less a beach combat team and the 

46 RCT 17 Rpt, p. 6, and Jnl, 4 Feb 44, Msg 9; 
Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. II, p. 38; 31st FA Bn 
Jnl, 4 Feb 44. 

47 RCT 1 7 Rpt, p. 7; Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, 
Vol. II, pp. 39-40. 

48 TF 51 Marshalls Rpt, Annex F, p. 5; Marshall, 
Kwajalein Notes, Vol. II, pp. 39-40. 

49 RCT 17 Rpt, p. 7 and Jnl, 4 Feb 44, Msgs 55, 60; 
7th Inf Div G-3Jnl, 4 Feb 44, Msg 57. 

50 RCT 17 Rpt, pp. 7, 20; 7th Med Bn AAR, pp. 
14-15. 

51 RCT 17 Rpt, pp. 6, 7, and Jnl, 3 Feb 44, Msg 76, 
4 Feb 44, Msgs 14, 39; 708th Amph Tk Bn, Sp Ac- 
tion Rpt, 12 Mar 44, p. 3. 



END OF THE BATTLE FOR SOUTHERN KWAJALEIN 



299 




BUILDINGS AND SHELTERS after heavy air and artillery bombardment. 



Blakenship security detail, was organized 
into an Eastern Force and a Western 
Force, each consisting of a reinforced rifle 
company. The Eastern Force went first to 
the northern end of the southeastern leg 
of Kwajalein Atoll and worked south to- 
ward Bennett Island. In succession it vis- 
ited Ashberry, August, Barney, Augustine, 
and Bascome Islands, meeting no resist- 
ance, but fin ding seven nat ives on Augus- 
tine Island. 52 



(See Map 9.) 



The Western Force moved northward 
from Carlos Island. Clement, Clarence, 
and Clifford Islands were quickly secured 
and without opposition. 53 On Clifton a 
small Japanese force had to be subdued 
before the island could be declared se- 
cured. Troops of Company E met some 
desultory machine gun fire as they moved 
up the island from the landing beach on 



the southern tip. From a wounded prisoner 
it was learned that over a hundred sailors 
had come ashore from ships that had been 
bombed in the lagoon and had brought 
with them antiaircraft machine guns and 
other weapons. This little force could offer 
no serious resistance to the attackers, al- 
though one American soldier was killed 
and four others were wounded. By night- 
fall the island was declared secure. The 
enemy had lost 101 killed, many of them 
suicides. The next day neighboring Cohen 
Island was occupied without opposition. 54 
Meanwhile, the remaining islands on 
the southeastern leg of the atoll were being 
seized by other units of the 17th Infantry, 



II, 



52 RGT 17 Rpt, pp. 9-10. 

53 Ibid.; Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol 
55-56. 

54 Marshall, Kwajalein Notes, Vol. II, pp. 56-64 



pp. 



300 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



the 7th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop, 
and a detachment from the 184th Infan- 
try. At 0930, 5 February, the 3d Battalion, 
17th Infantry, made an unopposed land- 
ing on the northern end of Beverly Island 
and completed its occupation in less than 
an hour, having discovered only three Jap- 
anese on the island. Simultaneously, the 
1st Battalion, 17th Infantry, landed on 
Berlin. After moving slowly through the 
underbrush some distance up the island 
from the southern end, the attackers en- 
countered some small arms fire from dug- 
outs, costing them altogether three men 
killed and four wounded. These dugouts 
were quickly demolished and by 1514 Ber- 
lin was secured. One hundred and ninety- 
eight enemy were killed and one captured. 
Immediately thereafter, Company C, pre- 
ceded by a platoon of medium tanks, 
crossed the reef to Benson Island. The 
crossing was unopposed and the advance 
up the island was rapid. One Japanese was 
killed and two natives taken prisoner at 
the cost of one American killed and one 
wounded. 55 

The task of capturing Bennett Island 
was assigned to the 7th Reconnaissance 
Troop, which was to repeat the procedure 
it had followed in capturing Carter and 
Cecil Islands on D Day. The troops were 
taken from Carlos through the lagoon to 
a point near Bennett in the high-speed 
transports Manley and Overton and disem- 
barked before dawn. In rubber boats they 
moved ashore, landing at the northern 
point of the island at 0600. Hastily, before 
daybreak, a defensive position was estab- 
lished there. At dawn the force moved out, 
with the 3d Platoon in front, the 1st Pla- 
toon on the left flank, the headquarters 
platoon supporting the center rear, and 
the 2d Platoon acting as rear guard. 56 

About a hundred yards from the line of 



departure, the advance platoon came 
across a well-protected bunker containing 
an unknown number of Japanese. Neither 
grenades, bazookas, nor clusters of gre- 
nades were powerful enough to destroy the 
position, so Captain Gritta, commanding 
officer, ordered it bypassed. The 1st and 
3d Platoons then moved forward to meet 
an attack of Japanese infantry approach- 
ing from the south. After a brief exchange 
of machine gun and small arms fire, fifteen 
of the enemy were killed and one machine 
gun was captured, another knocked out. 
As the front line continued toward the 
center of the island, it came across another 
bunker, which appeared to be much 
stronger than the first. 

Meanwhile, Captain Gritta had called 
for reinforcements. The 3d Battalion, 
184th Infantry, had been standing by in 
floating reserve to assist in the capture of 
Berlin or Beverly, if necessary. The battal- 
ion was ordered instead to Bennett, where 
the resistance appeared to be heavier. Ac- 
companied by two medium tanks and 
under command of Lt. Col. William B. 
Moore, executive officer of the 17th Infan- 
try, this reserve force began to come ashore 
on Bennett about 1100. The unit moved 
up at once, getting into the front lines 
shortly before noon. Meanwhile, the de- 
stroyer Noel had moved to a station west of 
Bennett in order to furnish fire on call. 57 

In the absence of other orders, Colonel 
Moore and his infantrymen took over the 
ocean side of the island while Captain 
Gritta's troop covered that nearest the la- 
goon. By this time the occupants of the first 
dugout had committed suicide, and after 
the tanks subdued the second dugout the 



55 RGT 17 Rpt, pp. 7-8. 

56 7th Cav Ren Tr AAR, pp. 9-10. 

57 Ibid.; 7th Inf Div G-3 Jnl, 5 Feb 44, Msgs 5, 7; TF 
5 1 Marshalls Rpt, Incl E, App 2. 



END OF THE BATTLE FOR SOUTHERN KWAJALEIN 



301 



advance southward along the island be- 
gan. After hardly more than twenty-five 
yards' progress, machine gun fire from a 
pier on the right stopped the advance for 
a few minutes while mortar and tank fire 
knocked out the machine guns. 58 

The attack was almost halfway to the 
southern tip before division orders author- 
ized Colonel Moore to take command of 
the operation. The 7th Cavalry Recon- 
naissance Troop withdrew to the beach, 
and the infantry, supported by two light 
and two medium tanks, completed the at- 
tack. Early in the afternoon the troop over- 
came another set of pillboxes near the cen- 
ter of the island. Through the dense under- 
brush the process of mopping up was con- 
tinued until 1642, when the island was 
reported fully secured. At the cost of one 
killed and two wounded in the 7th Cav- 
alry Reconnaissance Troop and no casual- 



ties among other components, Bennett 
Island had been captured and some 
ninety-four Japanese had been killed or 
had died by their own hands. 59 

The Southern Landing Force thus com- 
pleted its mission, with losses for the entire 
operation in southern Kwajalein reported 
as 142 killed, 845 wounded, and two miss- 
ing in action. The best estimate of enemy 
losses was 4,938 dead and 206 prisoners, 
79 of whom were Japanese and 127 
Korean. 60 Meanwhile, some forty-five 
miles to the north, operations of the North- 
ern Landing Force against the sixty-two 
islands of the upper half of Kwajalein 
Atoll were also nearing completion. 

58 RCT 1 7 Rpt, p. 9; 7th Inf Div G-3 Jnl, 5 Feb 44, 
pp. 68, 88. 

59 RCT 1 7 Rpt, p. 9; 7th Inf Div G-3 Jnl, 5 Feb 44, 
pp. 149-51. 

60 7th Inf Div Flintlock Rpt, Vol. Ill, G-l Rpt, 
pp. 18, 19, 70. 



CHAPTER XVIII 



The Capture of Majuro 
and Roi-Namur 



Majuro 

On the same day that the first landings 
were being made on Kwajalein Atoll, 
American forces with far less difficulty 
were occupying Majuro Atoll about 265 
nautical miles to the southeast. Majuro 
was correctly believed to be only lightly 
defended, if at all, and the configuration of 
the atoll plus its location on the eastern 
rim of the Marshalls made it an ideal loca- 
tion for an advance naval base. Hence the 
decision to include its capture as a second- 
ary phase of the Flintlock operation. 

The atoll contains a large lagoon, about 
twenty-six miles long and six miles wide, 
surrounded by a narrow ribbon of islets 
covered with low-lying veg etation and con- 
nected by submarine reefs. (Map 15) Some 
portions of this rim are distinguishable as 
separate islands. The largest of these, 
Majuro Island, extends from the south- 
western corner of the atoll about fifteen 
miles east. Between Majuro Island and 
Dalap Island, twelve miles to the east, 
there is a string of small islets. On the 
eastern leg of the atoll north of Dalap lie 
Uliga and Darrit Islands. The northern 
side of the atoll is irregular and broken. 
Along it, and elsewhere around the lagoon 
are many tiny islets too small to be of any 
consequence. Near the middle of the 



northern leg are the two best entrance 
channels, separated by Eroj Island. Galalin 
Pass, to which the attacking force was di- 
rected, was that at the east, lying between 
Eroj and Calalin Islands. 1 

The Majuro Attack Group (Task Group 
51.2), commanded by Admiral Hill, left 
Pearl Harbor on 23 January in company 
with the Reserve Force destined for Kwaja- 
lein. The ground forces committed to 
Majuro consisted of the 2d Battalion, 
106th Infantry, reinforced, of the 27th In- 
fantry Division, under command of Colo- 
nel Sheldon, and of the V Amphibious 
Corps Reconnaissance Company, com- 
manded by Capt. James L.Jones, USMC. 
These troops, totaling over 1,500 officers 
and men, were carried aboard the trans- 
port Cambria, which also served as Ad- 
miral Hill's flagship, and the high-speed 
transport Kane. 

Protection was initially provided by the 
cruiser Portland, escort carriers Nassau and 
Natoma Bay, and later by Destroyer Divi- 
sion 96, consisting of Bullard, Black, Kidd, 
and Chauncey, which rendezvoused with 
the attack group at sea after a voyage from 
Funafuti. Three mine sweepers, Chandler, 
Sage, and Oracle and the LST 482, carrying 



1 Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), The Assault 
on Kwajalein and Majuro, Washington, 1944, 2 vols., 
Vol. I, p. 7 (map). 



THE CAPTURE OF MAJURO AND ROI-NAMUR 



303 



IT*40"E 



MAJURO ATOLL 

? : ? ? t ? 

NAUTICAL *4lLE5 



— T*I0'N- 




MAP 15 



the amphibious vehicles for the landing, 
completed the group. 2 

At 0300 on 30 January, the Majuro 
group broke off from the remainder of the 
convoy bound for Kwajalein and headed 
directly for its target. 3 About two hours 
later Kane sped forward alone and reached 
Calalin Pass about 2130 that evening. 
Under cover of darkness she launched her 
rubber boats that were to carry ashore the 
first American troops to land on a posses- 
sion held by the Japanese before the out- 
break of the war. Led by 1st Lt. Harvey C. 
Weeks, USMC, elements of the V Am- 
phibious Corps Reconnaissance Company 
landed on Calalin Island close to the en- 
trance to the pass. They found one native 
and at 2345 reported by radio that he had 
told them that about 300 to 400 enemy 
were on Darrit Island, but that none were 
elsewhere on the atoll. 4 



Meanwhile, Kane had continued around 
the eastern end of the atoll and at 0200 on 
31 January commenced to land the re- 
mainder of the reconnaissance company, 
under Captain Jones, on Dalap Island. 
Proceeding north along the island, they 
found a native from whom they learned, in 
direct contradiction of the earlier report, 
that all but four of the enemy had left 
Majuro more than a year earlier and that 
those four Japanese were at the other end 
of the atoll on Majuro Island. Confirma- 
tion of this second account was next ob- 
tained from an English-speaking half- 
caste, Michael Madison, who was dis- 
covered on Uliga Island. By this time Ad- 



2 TG 51.2 Action Rpt, Majuro Atoll, Marshall Is- 
lands, 15 Feb 44, Incl A, pp. 2, 8. 

3 Ibid., p. 11. 

4 V Phib Corps Flintlock Rpt, Incl J, V Phib 
Corps Amph Ren Co, War Diary, Sundance Atoll, 20 
Jan 44, Annex H, p. 2. 



304 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



miral Hill's ships had commenced their 
scheduled naval gunfire on Darrit Island 
at 0600, and Captain Jones had some diffi- 
culty in getting in touch with the flagship 
by radio to call off the fire, which was not 
needed since no known enemy was on the 
island. Finally, after about fifteen minutes, 
radio contact was established and the 
naval bombardment of the eastern section 
of the atoll ceased. 

A detail from the reconnaissance com- 
pany then walked across the reef from 
Uliga to Darrit and verified the report that 
had prompted suspension of the bombard- 
ment. They found the village on Darrit 
deserted and installations only partly dam- 
aged by the naval gunfire. Incomplete 
buildings and useful construction material 
were also discovered. 5 

That afternoon the marines of the recon- 
naissance company boarded Kane to be 
taken to Majuro Island itself, where it was 
hoped they would find the remnant of 
Japanese reported to be still in the atoll. 
At 2145 that evening a detail of forty-two 
men landed from rubber boats and com- 
menced patrolling the island. Only one 
Japanese was discovered, a Warrant Officer 
Nagata of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 
who had been left as overseer of Japanese 
property in Majuro. Several machine guns 
and a small store of dynamite and hand 
grenades were taken, and with that the 
"capture" of Majuro Atoll was completed. 6 

D Day: Northern Kwajalein 

The 4th Marine Division's plan for the 
capture of the northern half of Kwajalein 
Atoll was in most respects a duplicate of 
that of the 7th Infantry Division's for the 
southern half. The principal target was 
Roi-Namur, twin islands on the northern 
tip of the atoll, connected only by a strip of 



sandy beach and an artificial causeway. 
The day before the main landing was un- 
dertaken, adjacent islands were to be cap- 
tured in order to make safe the passage of 
naval vessels into the lagoon and provide 
location for artillery to support the assault 
on Roi-Namur. This preliminary task was 
assigned to a special landing group (desig- 
nated Ivan Landing Group) commanded 
by General Underhill. It consisted of the 
25th Marines (reinforced), the 14th Ma- 
rines (Artillery), Company D (Scout) of 
the 4th Tank Battalion, and other attached 
units. 

Ivan and Jacob 

At 0900 on 31 January the 1st Battalion, 
25th Marines, plus the Scout Company, 
was to make simultaneous landings from 
the ocean side on Ivan (Mellu) and Jacob 
(Ennuebing) Islands, which guarded the 
deep water pass into the lagoon. (See Map 
1Q.)\ After the la goon had been swept for 
mines, the 2d and 3d Battalions of the 
same regiment were to move in and land 
on Albert (Ennumennet) and Allen (En- 
nubir) Islands, which lay southeast of 
Namur. If time permitted, the 3d Battalion 
was then to capture Abraham (Ennugar- 
ret) Island thus completing the chain sur- 
rounding Roi-Namur. The four battalions 
of the artillery regiment (14th Marines) 
were to be emplaced respectively on Ivan, 
Jacob, Albert, and Allen, from which posi- 
tions they could support the next day's 
landings on Roi and Namur. 7 Only 
enough amphibian tractors (from the 10th 
Amphibian Tractor Battalion) were avail- 
able to carry two landing teams at a time, 

5 Ibid., Annex E, pp. 2-3. 

6 Ibid., Annex H, pp. 4-6. 

7 4th Marine Div Opn Plan 3-43 (Revised), 30 Dec 
43; 4th Marine Div Final Rpt Flintlock, 17 Mar 44, 
Incl C, Rpt of Gen Underhill, CG Ivan Landing 
Group, p. 1. 



THE CAPTURE OF MAJURO AND ROI-NAMUR 



305 



the 1st and 2d Battalions. The plan called 
for the 1st Battalion to release its tractors 
to the 3d upon completion of the capture 
of Ivan and Jacob. 8 This shortage of am- 
phibian tractors, the inevitable complica- 
tions involved in making five separate 
landings in one day, and other factors yet 
to be mentioned led to such confusion and 
delay that all of the plans for D Day 
quickly went awry. 

At 0535 on 31 January Admiral Con- 
oily 's flagship, Appalachian, in convoy with 
the transports and fire support ships of the 
Northern Attack Force took station south- 
west of Ivan and Jacob Islands and com- 
menced preparing for the initial attack on 
northern Kwajalein. The sky was overcast; 
a 19-knot wind blew from the northeast, 
which meant that the amphibian craft 
bound for Ivan and Jacob would have to 
buck both wind and sea. 9 

Shortly before sunrise Conolly's fire sup- 
port ships took station, and at 0651 Biloxi 
and Maryland commenced shelling. In 
addition to these two vessels, the landings 
were to be supported by the old battleships 
Tennessee and Colorado, the heavy cruisers 
Louisville, Mobile, and Indianapolis, the light 
cruiser Santa Fe, escort carriers Sangamon, 
Suwanee, and Chenango, seventeen destroy- 
ers, one destroyer escort, and three mine 
sweepers. At 0715 naval gunfire was 
checked to permit a scheduled air strike 
by planes from the escort carriers. This 
was completed within eight minutes, and 
the naval guns again took up the blasting 
of Roi and Namur. 

Meanwhile, the troops that were to land 
on Ivan and Jacob were facing unexpected 
difficulties getting debarked from their 
transports into landing craft and trans- 
ferred into the amphibian tractors, which 
had been carried aboard LST's. Before the 
operation, landing team commanders had 



estimated that their debarkation interval 
would be about sixty minutes. This proved 
to be grossly optimistic. Once the troops 
were loaded in their assigned landing craft 
they had to make their way through 
choppy seas to the LST area for transfer to 
amphibian tractors. At this juncture all 
semblance of control broke down. 

Landing craft were about two hours late 
in reaching the LST area. Choppy seas 
and a head wind were partly responsible 
for the delays. Boat control officers left the 
tractors in frantic search for the landing 
craft and failed to return in time to lead 
the LVT's to the line of departure. Tractors 
were damaged or swamped while milling 
around their mother LST's waiting for the 
troops to show up. Radios in LVT's were 
drowned out. One LST weighed anchor 
and shifted position before completing the 
disembarkation of all its tractors. The ele- 
vator on another broke down so that those 
LVT's loaded on the topside deck could 
not be disembarked on time. In short, 
almost every conceivable mishap occurred 
to delay and foul up what, under even the 
best of circumstances, was a complicated 
maneuver. 10 



8 4th Marine Div Final Rpt Flintlock, 1 7 Mar 44, 
Incl C, p. 1. 

9 4th Marine Divjnl, 31 Jan-2 Feb 44, Roi- Namur, 
Operational Narrative, 31 Jan 44, p. 2. The following 
narrative of the landings on Ivan and Jacob is derived 
from this source and from the following: TF 53 Rpt 
Roi-Namur, 23 Feb 44, Incl A, pp. 10-14; 4th Marine 
Div Final Rpt Flintlock, 17 Mar 44; Ibid., Incl C, 
Rpt of CG Ivan Landing Group; Ibid., Incl F, Rpt of 
RCT 25; 1st Bn 25th Marines Rpt of Activities, 16 
Feb 44; 10th Amph Trac Bn Rpt of Opns During the 
Flintlock Opn, 17 Mar 44; 14th Marines Opns Rpt. 
Also, the authors are indebted to the U.S. Marine 
Corps Historical Division for permission to read the 
first three chapters of a draft study of Marine Corps 
operations in the Marshalls prepared by Lt. Col. 
Robert D. Heinl, USMC. 

10 See reports of platoon leaders of the 10th Am- 
phibian Tractor Battalion in 10th Amph Trac Bn Rpt 
Flintlock. 



306 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



At 0825 another air strike was launched 
against Roi and Namur and ten minutes 
later the naval ships again resumed fire. 
By this time it had become apparent to the 
control officer who was stationed aboard 
the destroyer Phelps on the line of depar- 
ture that the scheduled H Hour could not 
be met and he so advised Admiral Conolly. 
The admiral postponed the time of land- 
ing by thirty minutes and advised the 
planes that were to deliver a last-minute 
bombing and strafing on the beaches to co- 
ordinate their actions with the progress of 
the landing waves, holding their strike 
until the tractors were twenty minutes off 
the beach. 

Not until 0917 were enough tractors 
present on the line of departure to warrant 
starting the final movement forward. As 
the first wave moved toward the beaches 
of Ivan, Col. Samuel C. Cumming, com- 
manding officer of the 25th Marines, 
radioed, "Good luck to first Marine to 
land on Japanese soil." 11 Ahead of the 
troops bound for Jacob moved a wave of 
armored amphibians and ahead of them a 
wave of LCI gunboats. Eleven hundred 
yards off the shore these ugly little vessels 
released their barrage of rockets and imme- 
diately thereafter the final air strike against 
the beaches of Ivan and Jacob was deliv- 
ered. As the LCI's lay to in the water, the 
wave of amphibian tanks passed through 
to pound the beaches with 37-mm. shells. 
These then deployed to port and starboard 
and the troop-laden amphibian tractors 
moved to the shore. The first tractor 
touched the coral beaches of Jacob at 0952, 
almost a full hour behind the original 
schedule. 

The landing on Ivan, carried out in the 
same manner, was even further delayed. 
Unable to negotiate the reefs on the sea- 
ward side the Scout Company, contrary to 



orders, moved into the lagoon and landed 
on the southeast beach about 0955. There 
they quickly built up a firing line across 
the southern end of the island from east to 
west. When the remainder of the Ivan 
Landing Group (C Company) landed on 
the southwest (seaward) side of the island 
at 1015, they quickly established liaison 
with the Scout Company and together the 
two units moved up the island. 12 

There was only token resistance on Ivan 
and Jacob. By 1015 Jacob was reported 
secured with thirteen Japanese killed and 
three taken prisoner. An hour and a half 
later Ivan was completely overrun with 
seventeen enemy killed and two taken pris- 
oner. By early afternoon the 3d Battalion, 
14th Marines (75-mm. pack howitzers), 
had been carried ashore to Jacob Island in 
LVT's, and the 4th Battalion (105-mm. 
howitzers) was landed on Ivan from 
LCM's. 13 With this accomplished, the 
regiment's attention could now be turned 
to the capture of Albert, Allen, and Abra- 
ham Islands on the other (eastern) flank of 
Roi-Namur. 

Albert and Allen 

The plan for the next stage of D-Day 
operations called for the 2d Battalion, 25th 
Marines, commanded by Lt. Col. Lewis C. 
Hudson, to capture Allen Island, and for 
the 3d Battalion, 25th Marines, under 
command of Lt. Col. Justice M. Chambers, 
to take Albert and, if possible, Abraham. 
A Hour for landing on Albert and Allen 
was 1430; B Hour for landing on Abraham 



11 4th Marine Div Jnl, 31 Jan 44, p. 6. Colonel 
Cumming was in error. Marines of the V Amphibious 
Corps Reconnaissance Company had landed the night 
before at Majuro. 

12 1st Bn 25th Marines Rpt, p. 1. 

13 14th Marines Rpt Flintlock, p. 1. 



THE CAPTURE OF MAJURO AND ROI-NAMUR 



307 



was 1600. The 2d Battalion had already 
been boated in LVT's (except for one wave, 
which was in LCVP's) and was standing 
by as the reserve force for the Ivan-Jacob 
landings. There had not been enough 
LVT's, however, to carry the 3d Battalion, 
which had to wait until early afternoon in 
LCVP's until the 1st Battalion had re- 
leased sufficient tractors to carry the 3d to 
its destination. 14 

The first step was to clear the passes and 
the lagoon off the southern shore of Roi- 
Namur of any possible mines. By 1116 the 
mine sweepers had moved under cover of 
smoke through Jacob Pass and within 1,500 
yards of Albert Island. As the sweepers re- 
tired southward into the lagoon, Albert 
and Allen were bombed and strafed by 
carrier aircraft, and LCI's moved close in 
to add to their 20-mm. and 40-mm. fire to 
the din. Then, about noon, as both mine 
sweepers and LCI's moved out of Jacob 
Pass back into the ocean, six torpedo 
planes and seven bombers delivered an 
attack on Albert and four bombers hit 
Allen. As soon as this was completed naval 
fire from two destroyers, Porte) -field and 
Haraden, was resumed. Meanwhile the 
larger vessels were pouring shells into 
Namur. At 1210 Admiral Conolly sent the 
order, "Desire MARYLAND move in 
really close this afternoon for counter bat- 
tery and counter blockhouse fire, using 
pointer fire for both main and secondary 
batteries." 15 Thus was born the affection- 
ate title "Close-in Conolly," which was 
endowed upon the admiral for the rest of 
the war and never failed to endear him to 
soldiers and marines who liked the com- 
fortable feeling of battleships and cruisers 
close behind their own unarmored backs. 

Meanwhile, another mix-up in the land- 
ing plan had occurred. As naval gunfire 
and mine-sweeping operations were pro- 



ceeding inside the lagoon, the landing craft 
and vehicles to carry the 2d and 3d Battal- 
ions, 25th Marines, to Allen and Albert 
were supposed to be forming in transfer 
areas about 3,000 yards southeast of the 
Ivan-Jacob line of departure, which was 
marked by the destroyer Phelps. Up to 1 130 
no boats or LVT's were anywhere near 
these areas. About this time Phelps, which 
had been acting as central control vessel 
for all D-Day landings, received orders to 
leave station as control vessel and proceed 
into the lagoon to deliver fire support mis- 
sions. In obedience to these instructions 
Phelps announced over her bull horn to the 
SC 997, aboard which rode General Under- 
bill, "Am going to support minesweepers. 
Take over." Whereupon the destroyer 
steamed through Ivan Pass into the lagoon, 
leaving the job of boat control to the sur- 
prised party aboard the subchaser. Unfor- 
tunately the SC 997 had been furnished 
none of the plans for boat control and fur- 
thermore had an insufficient number of 
radios aboard to carry on proper commu- 
nications with the milling tractors and 
landing craft. To compound the confusion, 
most of the tractors of the 2d Battalion 
Landing Team took out after Phelps and 
started to follow her through the pass. 

General Underhill immediately ordered 
SC 997 to overtake the retreating troops. 
Their tractors and landing craft were or- 
dered by megaphone to return to the 
proper transfer area. En route, the newly 
appointed control vessel collected a few 



14 This account of the Albert, Allen, and Abraham 
landings is derived from the following sources: 4th 
Marine Div Final Rpt Flintlock, Incls C and F; 4th 
Marine Div Jnl, 3 1 Jan 44; 2d Bn 25th Marines Rpt, 
20 Feb 44; 3d Bn 25th Marines Rpt, 9 Feb 44; 10th 
Amph Trac Bn Rpt Flintlock; TF 53 Rpt Roi- 
Namur, Incl A. 

15 4th Marine Div Jnl, 3 1 Jan 44, p. 15. 



308 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



aimlessly wandering tractors as well as 
most of the boats carrying the 3d Battal- 
ion Landing Team. Then Admiral Conolly 
was informed that the assault troops for 
Allen and Albert would probably be ready 
in the transfer areas by 1230. With this in- 
formation, A Hour was postponed to 
1430. 16 

By about 1250 a few more tractors had 
come into the transfer area, and General 
Underhill then ordered the SC 997 to lead 
the two assault battalion landing teams 
through Jacob Pass to Phelps, which was 
now lying off Albert and Allen waiting to 
direct the final attack. By this time Colonel 
Chambers' 3d Battalion had only enough 
LVT's to make up the first wave and a half. 
The remainder of these vehicles, which 
were supposed to have been released by 
the 1st Battalion, were either sunk or 
otherwise incapacitated, still drawn up on 
the beaches of Ivan or Jacob, or simply lost 
in the melee. General Underhill ordered 
Chambers to make do with what he had 
and proceed with the scheduled attack. 17 

At 1 342 Phelps, which was now stationed 
on the line of departure, radioed to Ad- 
miral Conolly that the first wave of tractors 
was not going to meet the 1430 A Hour 
and recommended that it be delayed by 
half an hour. It was so ordered. At 1420 
the scheduled last-minute air attack was 
ordered to be executed. Six bombers and 
one torpedo plane bombed Allen and six 
bombers and five torpedo planes covered 
Albert for fifteen minutes. Immediately 
upon suspension of this attack, the 
LCI(G)'s moved forward from the line of 
departure followed by a wave of armored 
amphibian tractors, which were followed 
in turn by the amphtracks and landing 
craft carrying the assault troops. The three 
destroyers that had been shelling the beach 
up to this time were ordered to cease fire at 



1450. As the waves moved closer to the 
beaches, the LCI(G)'s opened up with 
their 40-mm. and 20-mm. guns and their 
4.5-inch barrage rockets. On Albert a tre- 
mendous explosion was observed as a result 
of the barrage. Meanwhile, nine dive 
bombers and nine torpedo bombers from 
the escort carrier Suwannee were sent in to 
bomb and strafe Sally Point, the southeast 
promontory of Namur. At 1513 the first 
wave of the 3d Battalion, 25th Marines, 
touched ground on Albert, and about five 
minutes later the leading troops of the 2d 
Battalion hit Allen. 18 

Resistance on both islands was light. 
Within twenty minutes after the first touch- 
down, the 3d Battalion had pushed across 
Albert, and killed the ten Japanese present 
at the cost of one marine killed and seven 
wounded. The 2d Battalion had only a lit- 
tle more difficulty. On the northern half of 
Allen they ran into about a platoon of 
Japanese, but after sustaining seven casu- 
alties the attackers killed the twenty-four 
enemy and declared the island secure. 
Then Company G, supported by five ar- 
mored amphibians, pushed across the reef 
to Andrew Island, a little sandspit south of 
Allen, and took it without suffering casual- 
ties. Before dark the 75-mm. pack how- 
itzers of the 1st and 2d Battalions, 14th 
Marines, had been landed respectively on 
Allen and Albert, thus completing the 
bracketing of the main targets of Roi and 
Namur from both sides. 19 All that remained 
to complete the day's operations was the 
capture of Abraham Island lying immedi- 
ately southeast of Namur. 



16 This account is derived from General Underbill's 
report, 29 Feb 44, in 4th Marine Div Final Rpt Flint- 
lock, Annex G. 

17 Ibid., p. 4. 

18 4th Marine Divjnl, 31 Jan 44, pp. 19-24. 

19 14th Marines Rpt Flintlock, pp. 1-2. 



THE CAPTURE OF MAJURO AND ROI-NAMUR 



309 



Abraham 

Plans for the capture of Abraham were 
greatly complicated by the premature de- 
parture from Albert of all but two LVT's. 
This situation came about as a result of a 
midstream modification of plans and igno- 
rance on the part of the LVT commanders 
of the proposed scheme for landing on 
Abraham. After leaving Hawaii and while 
still aboard ship, General Underhill re- 
ceived a change of D-Day plans to include 
the capture of Abraham about 1600. This 
plan was supposed to have been forwarded 
to the commander of the 10th Amphibian 
Tractor Battalion and his subordinate 
commanders on the morning of D Day. In 
the confusion that attended the transfer of 
troops to the LVT's, the change of orders 
was not received by the tractor units. 
Hence they were under the impression that 
once Allen and Albert were secured they 
were at liberty to return to the LST's to 
take on much-needed fuel. 20 

Late in the afternoon, Colonel Cum- 
ming, commanding officer of the 25th 
Marines, conferred with Colonel Cham- 
bers, the 3d Battalion commander, on the 
feasibility of an immediate landing on 
Abraham. It was agreed and subsequently 
ordered that B Hour for the landing would 
be 1800. No artillery support would be 
available because the pack howitzers had 
not yet had time to get into position and 
register. It was too late to establish contact 
with the naval fire support ships to get 
naval gunfire support, and although a re- 
quest was made for air support, it was 
refused. This meant that the only prelimi- 
nary fire that Chambers could count on 
would be from his own 60 -mm. and 81 -mm. 
mortars plus the half-tracks that had been 
attached to his battalion for the invasion of 
Albert. 21 



Before the hour for jumping off arrived, 
two more LVT's were commandeered, 
bringing the total number available for the 
attack to four. The commanding officer of 
Company A, 4th Tank Battalion, 1st Lt. 
Robert E. Stevenson, personally recon- 
noitered the depth of water by wading 
almost the whole distance to Abraham. A 
small sandspit lying between Albert and 
Abraham (called Albert Junior) was occu- 
pied without any opposition except for 
light fire from Abraham. Then, starting at 
1 750, the half-tracks and mortars delivered 
a ten-minute preparatory fire against 
Abraham, and 81-mm. mortars laid smoke 
on the landing beach. With 120 officers 
and men of Company L aboard, the four 
LVT's hit the beach on schedule. After put- 
ting up a token resistance the few enemy 
on the island withdrew. Within thirty 
minutes two rifle companies (Companies 
L and K, reinforced) had been shuttled to 
the island. By 1915 the initial occupation 
of the island was completed, although 



20 4th Marine Div Final Rpt Flintlock, Annex C, 
p. 5; 10th Amph Trac Bn Rpt Flintlock, p. 3; 3d Bn 
25th Marine Rpt, p. 1. 

Part of the confusion resulted from a conflicting 
interpretation of orders. The Northern Landing Force 
Operation Plan 3-43 of 31 December 1943 provided 
that at the completion of Phase I on D Day, the LVT's 
should revert to division control. Since the tractors had 
not been apprised of the decision to take Abraham, 
their commanders assumed that with the securing of 
Allen and Albert, Phase I was completed and they 
were free to return to the LST area (10th Amph Trac 
Bn Rpt Flintlock, p. 3). On the other hand, General 
Underbill's Ivan Landing Group order directed the 
LVT's attached to 3d Battalion, 25th Marines, to 
return to their LST's only when released by his com- 
mand. According to this interpretation, ". . . there 
was no authority for LVT(A)'s to detach themselves 
from CT-25 or leave ALBERT or ALLEN until 
ordered by C.G., IVAN Landing Group or by CO., 
CT-25 and no release had been given." (4th Marine 
Div Final Rpt Flintlock, Annex C, p. 5.) 

21 The account of the capture of Abraham is derived 
from 4th Marine Div Final Rpt Flintlock, Incl F, 
Rpt of RCT 25, and 3d Bn 25th MarinesrRpL. 



THE CAPTURE OF MAJURO AND ROI-NAMUR 



311 



mopping-up operations continued for sev- 
eral hours. Six enemy were killed and 
others appear to have escaped to Namur 
after darkness set in. 

Immediately upon its capture, steps 
were taken to convert Abraham Island into 
a base for regimental weapons to support 
the next day's attack on Namur, which lay 
only 460 yards away. Ammunition and 
supplies were brought from Albert 
throughout the night. Battery B of the 4th 
Special Weapons Battalion and the 75-mm. 
platoon of the regimental Weapons Com- 
pany were landed. Before daylight the en- 
tire north coast bristled with flat-trajectory 
weapons and mortars. The total fire power 
located on Abraham came to five 75-mm. 
half-tracks, seventeen 37-mm. guns, four 
81 -mm. mortars, nine 60-mm. mortars, 
and sixty-one machine guns. The 24th 
Marines, which next day would attack 
Namur, would have reason to be thankful 
for all this additional support on their right 
flank. 

Thus, by the close of D Day the 25th 
Marines had captured five islands flanking 
the main target of Roi-Namur. Four bat- 
talions of artillery (three of 75-mm. pack 
howitzers and one of 105-mm. howitzers) 
had been emplaced, and all but the one 
105-mm. battalion had commenced regis- 
tration. Mortars, machine guns, and regi- 
mental weapons in considerable number 
had gone into position to support the right 
flank of the assault on Namur. An esti- 
mated 135 Japanese had been killed at the 
cost of eighteen marines killed, eight miss- 
ing, and forty wounded in action. 22 

On D Day, Roi and Namur had both 
been subjected to constant bombardment 
from air and from sea. The lagoon off the 
southern landing beaches had been swept 
and found clear of mines. Under cover of 
darkness an underwater demolition team 



had reconnoitered south of Roi and Namur 
to within fifty yards of the beaches and 
found no mines or obstructions. 

On the night of 31 January- 1 February, 
as the marines and sailors ashore and afloat 
anxiously awaited the dawn that would 
initiate the main assault on northern Kwa- 
jalein, three destroyers kept up an inter- 
mittent fire on those islands to harass the 
Japanese and prevent them from resting 
up for the coming attacks. Star shells from 
the destroyers from time to time pierced 
the murky darkness. The LST's of the 
initial group stayed at anchor inside the 
lagoon, fueling their embarked LVT's and 
otherwise preparing for the main assault. 
The flagship Appalachian lay to just outside 
the lagoon, as did the ships of Transport 
Division 26, which spent the night disem- 
barking ammunition and supplies to Ivan 
and Jacob. The remainder of the large 
ships of the Northern Attack Force cruised 
at sea waiting the signal to return to the 
attack area at daylight. 23 

Initial Landings on Roi and Namur 

The plan for the main assault on Roi- 
Namur called for simultaneous landings 
by the 23d Marine Regimental Combat 
Team on Red Beaches 2 and Red 3 on the 
lagoon (south) shore of Roi and of the 24th 
Marine Regimental Combat Team on 
Green Beaches 1 and Green 2 on the lagoon 
shore of Namur \(M ap VII) Each regiment 
would attack with two battalions abreast 
and one in reserve. The assault waves were 
to be carried in LVT's, which would be 
preceded by armored amphibians as far as 
the shore line. LCI gunboats, as usual, 



22 4th Marine Div Jnl, Operational Narrative, 1 Feb 
44, p. 1; 4th Marine Div Final Rpt Flintlock, Incl 
F, p. 3. 

23 TF 53 Rpt Roi-Namur, p. 6, Incl A, p. 14. 



312 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



would lead the waves close in to shore, fir- 
ing their guns and rockets as they went. W 
Hour for Roi and Namur was to be 0900 
on 1 February. 24 

The original plan had called for the 
transfer of the troops of the 23d and 24th 
Regimental Combat Teams from their 
transports to LST's outside the lagoon on 
the afternoon of D Day while the outlying 
islands were being captured. Then, in the 
early morning hours of 1 February, the 
LST's were to launch their troop-laden 
amphibian tractors, which would proceed 
into the lagoon under their own power and 
take station on the line of departure. Be- 
cause of the many difficulties that had 
beset the LVT's on D Day, this plan was 
changed. After the troop transfer had been 
completed, the LST's were ordered to 
move into the lagoon themselves early on 
the 1st before discharging their amphibian 
tractors. 25 

While the LST's got under way prepar- 
atory to moving into the lagoon and mak- 
ing ready to put their amphibian tractors 
into the water, naval ships and planes 
commenced their final softening up of the 
target. At 0650 the first bombardment be- 
gan when Santa Fe, Maryland, Indianapolis, 
Biloxi, Mustin, and Russell opened fire on 
Roi, and twenty minutes later Tennessee, 
Colorado, Louisville, Mobile, Morris, and 
Anderson commenced pounding Namur. 
Artillery fire commenced at 0645 with the 
1st and 2d Battalions, 14th Marines, firing 
on the beaches of Namur and the 3d and 
4th Battalions on those of Roi. 26 

Meanwhile, the assault troops were 
struggling, as often as not unsuccessfully, to 
get into their LVT's and move toward the 
line of departure. The 23d Marines were 
to be carried to their beaches by the trac- 
tors of the 4th Amphibian Tractor Battal- 
ion, which had rested idle aboard their 



LST's outside the lagoon on D Day. To the 
24th Marines bound for Namur were 
assigned the tractors of the 10th Amphib- 
ian Tractor Battalion that had participated 
in the preceding day's actions. 

The troubles that had beset the 10th 
Amphibian Tractor Battalion on D Day 
were titanic. They had been launched too 
far from the line of departure in the first 
place. They had had to buck adverse 
winds and unexpectedly choppy seas. Ra- 
dio failures had tremendously complicated 
the problem of control, causing still further 
delay and much unnecessary travel 
through the water. All of this spelled ex- 
cessive fuel consumption and many of the 
tractors ran out of gas before the day was 
over. For an LVT to run out of fuel in a 
choppy sea was usually disastrous. This 
model, the LVT(2), shipped water easily 
and its bilge pumps could not be manually 
operated. Thus, when the gasoline supply 
was gone the vehicle could not be pumped 
out and usually sank. In addition, many of 
the tractors of the 10th Battalion had not 
been released from their duties on D Day 
until after dark, were unable to get back to 
their mother LST's for refueling, and had 
spent the night on various outlying islands. 
Thus, as the hour for descending on Namur 
approached, the 24th Marines could mus- 
ter only 62 of the 110 tractors that had 
been assigned to them. 27 A hurried call 
was sent out for LCVP's to make up the 
difference. Since the regimental com- 
mander, Col. Franklin A. Hart, USMC, 
had not yet received the report of the pre- 



24 4th Marine Div Opn Plan 3-43 (Revised). 

25 TF 53 Rpt Roi-Namur, p. 6. 

26 4th Marine Div Jnl, Operational Narrative, 1 Feb 
44, p. 1 ; 14th Marines Rpt Flintlock, p. 2. 

27 10th Amph Trac Bn Rpt Flintlock, 1st Ind by 
CG 4th Marine Div, 27 Mar 44; 4th Marine Div Final 
Rpt Flintlock, Incl E, Rpt of RCT 24, p. 6. 



THE CAPTURE OF MAJURO AND ROI-NAMUR 



313 



vious night's beach reconnaissance by the 
underwater demolition team, he was not 
sure whether there was enough water off 
the beach to float LCVP's. Hence he had 
to make last-minute changes in the sched- 
uled wave formation. In the zone of the 2d 
Battalion, which was destined for Green 
Beach 2, the original fourth wave was 
ordered to go in as the second and third 
waves on the left of the line. This was be- 
cause Company E, which had originally 
been designated as reserve, had all of its 
twelve amphibian tractors available where- 
as Company G, designated the left assault 
company, had only three. 28 

To the left, off the beaches of Roi, the 
23d Marines were having their own share 
of problems. Their LST's were late in 
arriving on station inside the lagoon and 
once there they encountered serious diffi- 
culties in disembarking their tractors. Ele- 
vators jammed when the effort was made 
to lower the LVT's stowed on the top decks 
into the tank decks for launching. To add 
to these mechanical failures, the naval per- 
sonnel of the LST's were for the most part 
inexperienced. Some of these ships had 
been rushed from their Ohio River build- 
ing yards to San Diego only a few days 
before final departure for the Marshalls. 
Their crews had had only the most rudi- 
mentary basic training and very little time 
to work with the troops and the equip- 
ment. On one LST, only one man in the 
entire crew professed to having actually 
seen an LVT lowered down the elevator 
from the main deck to the tank deck. 29 

As soon as Admiral Conolly was made 
fully aware of this series of delays, he real- 
ized that the original W Hour of 1000 
could not possibly be met. Accordingly, at 
0853 the time for the first landing was 
postponed an hour, and shortly thereafter 
fire suppox'* ships were ordered to adjust 



their schedules to the new W Hour. 30 

As tractors and landing craft struggled 
to reach the line of departure and form in 
some semblance of orderly boat waves, 
naval ships and planes continued their 
devastating attack on the landing beaches 
and inland. At 1026 naval and artillery 
fire ceased as sixteen torpedo bombers and 
dive bombers from the light carrier Cabot 
flew in to drop their 2,000-pound bombs 
on assigned targets. Ten minutes later fif- 
teen dive bombers arrived from Intrepid to 
drop their loads, followed by a dozen 
fighters from the same ship, who flew in 
low and strafed the landing beaches. At 
1055 Admiral Conolly ordered all planes 
out of immediate area of the islands and 
ships and artillery were told to resume fire. 
Roi and Namur were covered with such 
towering plumes of smoke that one air ob- 
server reported the ceiling to be "absolutely 
zero." 31 

At the line of departure, marked again 
by the destroyer Phelps, confusion still 
reigned as W Hour approached and then 
passed. Off the beaches of Roi, Col. Louis 
R.Jones, commanding the 23d Marines, 
was out of radio contact with the com- 
mander of the 4th Amphibian Tractor Bat- 
talion. Radios had been doused with rain 
and salt water and, as had been the case 
the day before, very few were functioning. 
Lt. Col. Edward J. Dillon, commanding 
the 2d Battalion, 23d Marines, reported 
that he was completely out of touch with 
the regimental commander, and similar 



28 2d.Bn 24th Marines, Narrative of Battle Roi- 
Namur, p. 1. 

29 4th Marine Div Final Rpt Flintlock, Incl D, 
Rpt of RGT 23; Ltr, Adm Richard L. Conolly to 
Jeter A. Isely, 31 Aug 49, in Princeton University 
Library. 

30 4th Marine Div Jnl, Operational Narrative, 1 Feb 
44, p. 3. 

31 Ibid., p. 4. 



314 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



communications difficulties beset other 
units. 32 

By the time the 1st Battalion, 23d Ma- 
rines, reached the line of departure it was 
after 1000, the time originally set for the 
initial landing. Neither the troops nor their 
officers had yet received word of the delay 
in W Hour and therefore "felt that they 
had failed miserably to perform their mis- 
sion." 33 In one case, the naval wave com- 
mander had lost some of the LVT's en 
route to the line of departure and the senior 
Marine officer had to hold up the wave 
until the missing tractors could be located. 
In the case of the fourth wave, consisting of 
LCM's carrying tanks, no wave com- 
mander ever appeared to guide the craft 
into the line of departure. Since no radio 
contact could be established, dispatch 
boats had to be sent out to locate the miss- 
ing tanks and lead them into position. Not 
until 1045, roughly an hour and a half be- 
hind schedule, were all the tractors and 
boats of this battalion ready on or near the 
line of departure to make the run for the 
beach. 34 

At the same time Colonel Dillon of the 
2d Battalion, 23d Marines, was having his 
share of grief. At 1040 he got word from 
the commanding officer of Company E 
that the elevator on the company's LST 
had jammed and that some of his tractors 
would be delayed reaching the line of de- 
parture. Since this company was scheduled 
for the first two waves, readjustment in the 
wave formation was required. Dillon sim- 
ply ordered all tractors afloat to proceed 
independently to the line of departure and 
form themselves into a third and a fourth 
wave in the order of their arrival. 35 

Eleven o'clock came and went and still 
no order had been given to land the troops. 
The 23d Regiment had enough of its trac- 
tors in the area of the line of departure to 



start the assault, but the 24th on its right 
was still not ready. The run from the line 
of departure to the beach, it was estimated, 
would take thirty-three minutes, but by 
1027 there were still not enough tractors 
on the line of departure off of Namur to 
make an orderly attack. At 1041 Colonel 
Hart reported that his waves were still not 
ready for the attack and at about the same 
time Admiral Conolly advised the fire sup- 
port ships that W Hour might be delayed 
another fifteen minutes. 36 Colonel Hart 
meanwhile was under the impression that 
W Hour would be delayed indefinitely 
until his troops could form in sufficient 
number and in correct enough order to 
make a sustained attack. 

By 1110, however, both Admiral Con- 
olly and General Schmidt decided that 
there had been enough delay. The stun- 
ning blows delivered by aerial bombard- 
ment and naval gunfire might soon wear 
off and the tractors' fuel supply could not 
last forever. 37 Therefore, Phelps was grant- 
ed permission to send in the first wave, and 
at 1112 the flag Baker was hauled down 
from her yardarm giving the signal to start 
for shore. Off the beaches of Roi this was 
welcome news to the anxious troops of the 
23d Marines, who had for some time been 
drawn up in fairly good formation on the 
line of departure. Colonel Jones some min- 
utes before had been impatiently demand- 
ing of the control craft in his area why the 
first wave had not been sent in. But to 

32 4th Marine Div Final Rpt Flintlock, Incl D; 2d 
Bn 23d Marines Rpt of Landing Opns Roi-Namur, 14 
Feb 44, p. 3. 

33 Rpt of BLT 1, RCT 23, 4th Marine Div, Flint- 
lock, 10 Feb 44, p. 3. 

34 Ibid., pp. 3-4. 

35 2d Bn 23d Marines Rpt of Landing Opns Roi- 
Namur, p. 3. 

36 4th Marine Div Jnl, 1 Feb 44, p. 12. 

37 Ltr, Adm R. L. Conolly to Jeter A. Isely, 31 Aug 
49. 



THE CAPTURE OF MAJURO AND ROI-NAMUR 



315 




LANDING CRAFT HEAD FOR BEACH AT NAMUR 



Colonel Hart lying off Namur the order 
was an unwelcome surprise. Indeed, the 
first indication he received that the order 
to land had been executed came only 
when he spotted the tractors of his 3d Bat- 
talion Landing Team start off for the 
beach. Thinking they had jumped the 
gun, he immediately dispatched a control 
vessel to intercept them, but then observed 
that the tractors carrying the 23d Regi- 
mental Combat Team had also started for 
the line of departure. In view of this, there 
was nothing to do but send in those of his 
straggling waves that were on or near the 
line and trust to fortune that the landing 
would not be too chaotic. 38 

Ahead went the LCI gunboats, behind 
them the armored amphibians, and be- 
hind them the infantry in tractors, fol- 
lowed by tanks in LCM's. On Roi the 1st 



Battalion, 23d Marines, landed on the left 
on Red Beach 2, and the 2d Battalion on 
the right on Red Beach 3. Armored am- 
phibians of the 1st Battalion touched down 
at 1 133 and moved inland to the antitank 
trench to take up firing positions. There 
they continued firing their 37-mm. guns 
and .30-caliber machine guns across the 
entire landing team zone of action. One of 
the armored amphibians was hit by .50- 
caliber fire from the rear, killing one ma- 
rine. Shortly thereafter a platoon of the 
LVT(A)'s moved around the left flank 
through the water and over Wendy Point 
to open fire on Norbert Circle at the west 
end of the northern runway. By 1 158 the 
first two waves of infantry had landed, 
somewhat west of the assigned zone, but 

38 4th Marine Div Final Rpt Flintlock, Annex D, 
p. 3, Annex E, p. 7. 



316 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



not sufficiently so to prevent their taking 
up assigned positions. Resistance up to this 
point was characterized as very light. On 
the right the assault wave of the 2d Battal- 
ion, 23d Marines, reached shore at 1 150, 
passing through the armored amphibians. 
The heavy pall of smoke that covered the 
island obscured the vision of the first 
troops to get ashore, and for that reason 
four tractors of the right assault company 
(Company F) landed on the right of the 
regimental boundary line between Red 
Beach 3 and Green Beach 1 . There they 
silenced a few Japanese positions still op- 
erating before moving northwest into their 
proper zone of action. 39 

On Namur, the first troops hit the shore 
about 1 145. On the left was the 3d Bat- 
talion, 24th Marines, and on the right the 
2d Battalion. On the left the first wave of 
the 3d Battalion did not land on Green 
Beach 1 until 1200. Its substitute reserve 
company, Company B, got ashore about 
forty-five minutes later. The 2d Battalion 
Combat Team, at Green Beach 2, was 
somewhat prompter. Its first troops got 
ashore at about 1 145, although by the time 
they landed the first and second waves had 
become scrambled. Company G, in re- 
serve, landed at only about 50 percent 
strength somewhat later than scheduled 
and was followed piecemeal by the bal- 
ance of the reserves as they were able to 
secure LCVP's. Very little fire was en- 
countered except friendly fire from the 
rear. The armored amphibians that had 
led the tractors into the beach had been 
ordered to land and precede the assault 
troops up to a hundred yards inland. In- 
stead, they halted offshore and let the trac- 
tors pass through them. This created an 
unexpected traffic congestion in a move- 
ment that was already far from orderly. 
Worse still, the amphibians kept up their 



fire at the beach through the troops as the 
latter worked inland, causing some casual- 
ties and more indignation among the in- 
fantry. 40 

The Capture of Roi 

The main effort in the attack on Roi was 
on the right in the zone assigned to Colo- 
nel Dillon's 2d Battalion, 23d Marines. 
The battalion had been ordered to land on 
Red Beach 3 and move up the east coast of 
the island where, according to photo- 
graphic intelligence, most of the enemy's 
hangars, buildings, and other aviation 
base facilities were. To this landing team 
had been assigned a full company of ar- 
mored amphi bians plus most of the divi- 
sion's medium tank company (Company 
C, 4th Tank Battalion, less one platoon) 
and an additional platoon of light tanks 
from Company A. The tanks were to land 
from LCM's in two waves immediately 
following the first two waves of infantry. 41 

The first two waves of infantry landed 
easily. Colonel Dillon, on receiving word 
that there were no obstacles present either 
under water or on the beaches themselves, 
ordered his two waves of tanks to come 
in. 42 The LCM's carrying the tanks were 
supposed to proceed through a channel 
immediately west of Tokyo Pier, but since 
the pier had been demolished some of the 
coxswains failed to find the channel and 
the first platoon of medium tanks ground- 
ed on the coral shelf about two hundred 

39 1st Bn 23d Marines Rpt Flintlock, p. 5; 2d Bn 
23d Marines Rpt of Landing Opns Roi-Namur, p. 4. 

40 4th Marines Div Final Rpt Flintlock, Annex E, 
p. 8; 2d Bn 24th Marines Narrative of Battle Roi- 
Namur, p. 2. 

41 2d Bn 23d Marines Opn Order 2-44, 19 Jan 44. 

42 This account of action in the zone of the 2d Bat- 
talion, 23d Marines, is derived, unless otherwise noted, 
from 2d Bn 23d Mar Rpt of Landing Opns Roi- 
Namur, pp. 4-5. 



THE CAPTURE OF MAJURO AND ROI-NAMUR 



317 




MEDIUM TANKS move across the airfield on Roi Island. 



yards offshore. About half of the vehicles 
had to drive through water up to five and 
a half feet deep before touching ground, 
but each LCM carried aboard an extra 
tank man who waded through water 
ahead of the tank and guided it around 
potholes, so all reached shore safely. Once 
ashore, the tanks were temporarily held up 
by an antitank ditch directly behind the 
beach. Proceeding eastward in column 
they quickly found a place where the ditch 
had been filled in by preliminary bom- 
bardment and made their way across. 
Once over the ditch, the tanks assumed a 
line formation and moved directly across 
the airfield toward the first objective line. 43 
Behind them came the first waves of in- 
fantry. Resistance was light and scattered. 
"The air and naval gunfire bombard- 



ment," reported the battalion commander, 
"had reduced the entire zone of action 
to a shambles." 44 One pillbox located in 
the middle of the sand strip connecting 
Roi and Namur was still intact and func- 
tioning, and some fire was still coming 
from positions among the debris of the 
beach defenses, along the eastern edge of 
the island, and in the southeast corner of 
the airfield. Otherwise, the enemy was 
silent. 

In spite of the weakness of the opposi- 
tion, the troops moved forward cautiously. 
It was their first experience under fire and 



4:1 4th Tk Bn Rpt Flintlock, 31 Mar 44, Incl C, 
Rpt of Co C, p. 1. 

44 2d Bn 23d Mar Rpt of Landing Opns Roi- 
Namur, p. 5. 



318 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



they had expected to meet much heavier 
resistance than they actually did. Also, 
they thought it necessary to investigate al- 
most every square foot of ground on the 
not unlikely chance that Japanese would 
be hiding under the debris of demolished 
fortifications. 

Tanks and troops moved forward to- 
gether and in about half an hour reached 
the first objective line (0-1 line) located 
about 200 to 350 yards inland from the 
shore line. Once there, the medium tank 
company commander radioed his liaison 
officer on the beach, requesting permis- 
sion to cross the 0-1 line. Unfortunately, 
the frequencies assigned to the tanks and 
to supporting aircraft were so close to- 
gether that they caused mutual interfer- 
ence, and the message could not be gotten 
through. What bothered the tank com- 
mander was that the enemy antitank guns, 
located in the blockhouses on the northern 
edge of the airfield, might still be operat- 
ing and he was afraid to leave his vehicles 
immobilized on the open runway. Failing 
to establish radio contact, the tanks pro- 
ceeded across the line without permission. 
Shortly thereafter, front-line elements of 
the infantry followed the tanks, also with- 
out orders to do so. 45 

On the left of the 2d Battalion, the 1st 
Battalion, 23d Marines, commanded by 
Lt. Col. Hewin O. Hammond, had landed 
on Red Beach 2. They, too, found the re- 
sistance unexpectedly light. A group of 
pillboxes thought to be located on Wendy 
Point, the southwest promontory of the is- 
land, proved to have been wiped out by 
preliminary bombardment. As in the case 
of the 2d Battalion, the infantrymen 
pushed on ahead of the 0-1 line without 
orders, following the medium tanks ahead 
of them. There were a number of reasons 
for this: the runway that marked the line 



was so covered by debris as to be unrecog- 
nizable; radio communications between 
the landing team commander and his as- 
sault company commanders failed; and 
platoon leaders found it hard to maintain 
control because, in the words of one ser- 
geant, "the men wanted to kill a Jap so 
they went out on their own." 46 

By 131 1 Colonel Jones, the 23d's com- 
mander, was ashore and radioed back to 
General Schmidt, "This is a pip. No oppo- 
sition near the beach. Located scattered 
machine gun fire vicinity of split between 
. . . [Roi] and . . . [Namur]. Landing 
teams moving in to 0-1 line. Little or no 
opposition." Fifteen minutes later he fol- 
lowed this announcement with the mes- 
sage, "Give us the word and we will take 
the rest of the island." 47 

In spite of this optimism, division head- 
quarters was disturbed that front-line ele- 
ments had crossed the 0-1 line without 
orders and that the tanks were operating 
independently to the north of the line. Any 
attempt at a co-ordinated push to the 
northern shore of the island was out of the 
question until some order had been 
brought out of the confusion that existed 
on the front. Furthermore, neither close 
air support nor naval call fire could be 
utilized until the front line had been stabi- 
lized. At 1325 General Schmidt notified 
Colonel Jones to await orders for further 
attack and urged him to get his tanks 
under control and bring them back to the 
0-1 line. 48 

Finally, the order came to push off in 
a co-ordinated attack from the 0-1 line at 



45 4th Tk Bn Rpt Flintlock, Incl C, p. 2; 2d Bn 
23d Mar Rpt of Landing Opns Roi-Namur, p. 5. 

46 Rpt of BLT 1, RCT 23, 4th Marine Div, Flint- 
lock, 10 Feb 44, p. 3; Ibid., Incl, Rpt of Co A, p. 5. 

47 4th Marine Divjnl, 1 Feb 44, pp. 21-22. 

48 Ibid. 



THE CAPTURE OF MAJURO AND ROI-NAMUR 



319 



1530. 49 About the same time the 2d Bat- 
talion, 23d Marines, assigned to the east- 
ern (right) zone of Roi, moved out closely 
behind its supporting medium tanks. From 
left to right (west to east) were Companies 
E, G, and F. 50 In reserve was the 3d Battal- 
ion Landing Team of the 23d Regiment, 
which had come ashore at about 1450. Its 
duty was to defend the right flank of Roi 
to the 0-1 line. Troops of the reserve land- 
ing team not thus occupied were to sup- 
port the advance of the 2d Battalion to 
the north shore of Roi. 51 

On the left, Company E met practically 
no opposition and reached its objective by 
1600. On the right and in the center the 
going was somewhat rougher, although at 
no time did the enemy offer any really 
serious obstruction to the progress of Com- 
panies G and F. The first obstacle to be en- 
countered was a concrete administration 
building with steel doors, which by some 
freak of chance had not been touched by 
naval gunfire, planes, or artillery. Troops 
of Company F advanced toward it cau- 
tiously but received no fire. One man was 
sent forward toward the door under cover 
of fire. He kicked it open and tossed in a 
grenade. Only one Japanese was found in- 
side and the grenade disposed of him. 

A few minutes later the company com- 
mander called for a dive bombing attack 
on a blockhouse located about 500 yards 
north of the 0-1 line. This installation was 
constructed of reinforced concrete approxi- 
mately three feet thick and had three gun 
ports, one each facing north, east, and 
west, another indication of the enemy's 
mistaken assumption that the Americans 
would attack from the sea rather than the 
lagoon shore. Two heavy hits had been 
made on the blockhouse, one apparently 
by 14-inch or 16-inch shells and the other 
by an aerial bomb. Nevertheless, the posi- 



tion had not been demolished and Colonel 
Dillon asked for a dive bombing attack 
against it. The air support commander 
refused the request because the front-line 
troops were less than three hundred yards 
away from the target, too close for safety. 

Dillon then ordered Company G to take 
the blockhouse. The company commander 
first sent forward a 75-mm. half-track, 
which fired five rounds against the steel 
door. At this point, a demolition squad 
came up and its commander volunteered 
to knock out the position with explosives. 
While the half-track continued to fire, in- 
fantry platoons moved up on each flank of 
the installation. The demolition squad 
placed charges at the ports and pushed 
Bangalore torpedoes through a shell hole 
in the roof. "Cease fire" was then ordered 
and, after hand grenades were thrown in- 
side the door, half a squad of infantry went 
in to investigate. Unfortunately, the en- 
gineers of the demolition squad had not 
got the word to cease fire and had placed 
a shaped charge at one of the ports while 
the infantry was still inside. Luckily, no 
one was hurt, but as the company com- 
mander reported, "a very undignified and 
hurried exit was made by all concerned." 52 
Inside were found three heavy machine 
guns, a quantity of ammunition, and the 
bodies of three Japanese. 

49 The time of attack of 1530 had been sent by 
radio; subsequently a verbal order from the command- 
ing officer of the 23d Marines set this back to 1515. 
This caused some confusion in the minds of battalion 
commanders, but did not seriously interfere with the 
attack. (2d Bn 23d Mar Rpt of Landing Opns Roi- 
Namur, p. 5.) 

50 This account of the movement of 2d Battalion, 
23d Marines, from 0-1 line is derived from 2d Bn 23d 
Mar Rpt of Landing Opns Roi-Namur, pp. 5-6, and 
inclosed reports of Companies E, F, and G. 

51 3d Bn 23d Marines Record of Events, 3 1 Jan-5 
Feb 44, 12 Feb 44, p. 2. 

52 2d Bn 23d Mar Rpt of Landing Opns Roi- 
Namur, Incl L, Rpt of Co G, p. 4. 



320 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 




NEUTRALIZING A CONCRETE BLOCKHOUSE 



ing its objectives. Company A had landed 
on the left, Company B on the right, with 
Company C coming in somewhat later as 
reserve. By 1215 the battalion commander 
learned that his Company A had passed 
beyond the 0-1 line and immediately 
ordered its withdrawal. This took some 
time to accomplish, as the company com- 
mander could establish no radio contact 
with his platoon leaders and had to rely on 
runners to get the order through. Gradu- 
ally, the forward platoon was drawn back 
and preparations made to start a co-ordi- 
nated attack to the north. 54 

At 1530 the battalion commander called 
a conference of all company commanders 



53 Ibid., Incl L, p. 5; Ibid., Incl K, Rpt of Co F, p. 2. 

54 Rpt of BLT 1, RCT 23, 4th Mar Div, Flintlock, 
p. 5; Ibid., Incl, Rpt of Co A, p. 2. 



Extending east from the blockhouse, 
overlooking the beach, was a system of 
trenches and machine gun positions, some 
connected by tunnels. Here the few re- 
maining Japanese put up a feeble resist- 
ance. Most of those who had stayed in the 
trenches were already dead. The pillboxes 
were still firing but these were taken out 
by the demolition squad of Company F 
aided by the 37-mm. guns from the divi- 
sion special weapons battalion. Companies 
F and G then moved on to Nat Circle in 
the northeast corner of Roi and wiped out 
what few enemy remained in that area by 
1 700. The 2d Battalion then secured for 
the day and set up night defensive posi- 
tions. 53 

Meanwhile, in the left (west) half of 
Roi, the 1st Battalion, 23d Marines, was 
having an even easier time in accomplish- 



THE CAPTURE OF MAJURO AND ROI-NAMUR 



321 



and ordered the reserve Company C to 
pass through Company A and press the at- 
tack up the west coast of Roi. It was to be 
supported by one platoon of the weapons 
company, a platoon of medium tanks, and 
three half-tracks. Company B on the right 
was to hold its position on the 0-1 line. 55 

Company C jumped off at 1600 hugging 
the west coast of the island. Infantry and 
demolitions engineers moved forward slow- 
ly behind the tanks, meeting only light 
rifle and machine gun fire. A few scattered 
enemy riflemen continued to fire as the 
troops approached the north shore. These 
were quickly disposed of by the tanks fir- 
ing 75-mm. and machine guns. The pre- 
liminary bombardment had virtually an- 
nihilated the enemy in this part of Roi. In 
one trench on the north coast were dis- 
covered forty to fifty recently killed Japa- 
nese — the only enemy, dead or alive, en- 
countered. By 1800 Company C reached 
the northwest corner of the island at Nor- 
bert Circle and was ready to secure for the 
night. Casualties during the day for the 
entire battalion had come to only three 
killed and eleven wounded. 56 

Thus, by early evening, marines of the 
23d Regimental Combat Team had, with 
comparative ease, established a firm 
beachhead on the lagoon shore of Roi and 
had captured most of the land lying along 
the east and west coasts. All that remained 
was for the small pocket in the center of 
the airfield to be mopped up. 57 

The only feature to mar the complete 
success of the day's ground fighting was a 
rash of indiscriminate firing that broke out 
all over Roi, starting about 1800 and last- 
ing for more than half an hour. The 
sources were not clearly established, but 
on later investigation it was obvious that 
trigger-happy, green marines both on Roi 
and on Namur were responsible. Follow- 



ing this episode, Lt. Col. John J. Cosgrove, 
Jr., commanding officer of the 3d Battal- 
ion, 23d Marines, concluded "that fire dis- 
cipline was poor, . . . that 95% of those 
firing had no definite idea as to why they 
were firing . . . [and] . . . that a large 
portion of those firing were doing so be- 
cause they wanted to be able to say they 
had fired at a Jap." 58 

As night settled down, fire discipline was 
once again restored, and the marines on 
Roi rested in their shelters and foxholes 
uninterrupted by enemy counterattack. 
For all practical purposes the island was 
secured. All that remained next day was 
to mop up the few remaining Japanese, 
and this was accomplished without much 
difficulty. 

Credit for the ease with which Roi was 
taken goes largely to the preliminary bom- 
bardment by naval guns and aircraft and 
Marine artillery. Colonel Dillon, com- 
manding the 2d Battalion, 23d Marines, 
estimated that of the 400 Japanese dead 
in the eastern half of the island, 250 were 
killed by action prior to W Hour. 59 Since 
most of the resistance encountered on Roi 
was in the zone of this battalion, it is rea- 
sonable to believe that a similar ratio ob- 
tained on the rest of the island. 

But to the eastward, affairs were not 
proceeding so smoothly for the 24th Regi- 

55 Ibid., Incl, Rpt of Go B, p. 2, and Incl, Rpt of Go 
G, p. 2. 

56 Ibid., Incl, Rpt of Go C, p. 3, and Incl, Rpt of Bn 
Executive Officer, p. 4. 

57 During the afternoon's fighting on Roi, Pfc. Rich- 
ard B. Anderson won (posthumously) the Medal of 
Honor by covering an armed grenade with his body, 
thereby saving the other men sharing his foxhole from 
injury. (Citation quoted in Carl W. Proehl, The Fourth 
Marine Division in World War II (Washington, 1946), p. 
12.) 

58 3d Bn 23d Marines Record of Events, 31 Jan-5 
Feb 44, Incl D, p. 4. 

59 2d Bn 23d Marines Rpt of Landing Opns Roi- 
Namur, p. 6. 



322 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



mental Combat Team. Namur was prov- 
ing a much harder nut to crack. 

The Capture of Namur 

An air observer flying over the beaches 
of Namur about twenty minutes after the 
initial landing reported, "There is no en- 
emy resistance. . . . Don't think a bird 
could be alive." 60 This was somewhat of 
an exaggeration. The troops of the 24th 
Marines were to encounter considerably 
more resistance on Namur than was being 
met on Roi. Roi was almost all airfield, 
open and uncluttered by many buildings 
or much vegetation. Namur, on the other 
hand, contained the bulk of the shelters 
and buildings housing the aviation and 
other personnel located in northern Kwa- 
jalein. Furthermore, it was thickly covered 
with underbrush that even the heavy pre- 
liminary bombardment had not succeeded 
in burning off. 61 Here was congregated the 
majority of enemy troops assigned to the 
twin islands. They were concealed among 
the numerous buildings scattered through 
the area and were afforded ample protec- 
tion by the thick vegetation that remained 
standing. 

The four assault companies of the 3d 
and 2d Battalion Landing Teams had 
landed on Green Beaches 1 and 2 respec- 
tively between 1 145 and 1 200. From left 
to right they were Companies I, K, E, and 
F. Because of the shortage of amphibian 
tractors, the original reserve companies of 
each of these battalion landing teams 
could not be boated soon enough to per- 
form the missions assigned to them, so the 
reserve landing team, the 1st Battalion, 
24th Marines, which was already boated 
in LCVP's behind the line of departure, 
was ordered to send one assault company 
to the 2d Battalion and another to the 3d 



Battalion to substitute for the reserve com- 
panies. Thus, Company B landed about 
1245 as reserve for the 3d Battalion on 
Green Beach 1 and Company A got ashore 
shortly after 1 300 to act as reserve for the 
2d Battalion on the right half of the island. 
The plans called for the assault companies 
to proceed inland a hundred yards before 
pausing, in order to place the assault 
troops inside the perimeter defense of the 
island. All four companies were then to 
move as rapidly as possible on to the initial 
objective (0-1) line, which was marked by 
Sycamore Boulevard, a road running 
athwart the island about 400 to 500 yards 
inland of the beach. 62 

Of the two battalion landing teams allo- 
cated to Namur, that on the left had the 
easier going at first. About 1200 Company 
I landed on the extreme left and most of 
Company K came in on its immediate 
right. One platoon of Company K was 
sent to Pauline Point, the name given to 
the tiny spit of land that lay between Roi 
and Namur. This was the only unit that 
landed exactly on the proper beach as di- 
rected by the landing diagram. 63 Enemy 
resistance to the initial landing was light 



60 4th Marine Div Jnl, 1 Feb 44, p. 18. 

61 The napalm bomb, which was later demon- 
strated to be so effective in burning off vegetation, had 
not yet made its appearance in the Pacific. It was first 
employed at Tinian in July 1944. 

62 4th Marine Div Final Rpt Flintlock, Incl E, 
Rpt of RCT 24, pp. 2, 8. 

63 The account of the activities of the 3d Battalion 
Landing Team, 24th Marines Regimental Combat 
Team, is derived from 4th Marine Div Final Rpt 
Flintlock, Incl E, Rpt of RCT 24, and Lt Col A. R. 
Brunelli, USMC, The Capture of Namur Island, 
Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands, 1-2 February 1944, 
MS, U.S. Marine Corps Schools, Record Section. 
Colonel Brunelli was battalion commander and pre- 
pared this monograph as a historical tactical study for 
the Amphibious Warfare School, Marine Corps 
Schools, Quantico, Senior Course, 1946-47. In the 
absence of any known official battalion action report, 
this monograph has been used. 



THE CAPTURE OF MAJURO AND ROI-NAMUR 



323 




and unorganized. What fire there was 
from pillboxes, shell holes, and debris 
was neither mutually supporting nor co- 
ordinated. Nevertheless, the enemy had 
not been entirely silenced by the heavy 
preparatory fire and from the remains of 
the blockhouses and concrete air raid shel- 
ters he was able to pour out enough fire to 
slow down the progress of the attack. 

In spite of this, Companies I and K 
moved ahead in skirmish line, leaving 
some positions to be mopped up by the re- 
serves. Company B, the reserve company, 
landed about 1245 and commenced mop- 
ping up. Fifteen minutes later, three light 
tanks of the 3d Platoon, Company B, 4th 
Tank Battalion, got ashore but were al- 
most immediately bogged down. The 
beach was congested with men and sup- 



plies and in trying to get around the con- 
gestion, two tanks were bellied up in the 
soft sand that had been churned up by the 
preliminary bombardment. The one re- 
maining tank got inland about thirty 
yards, where it slipped into a shell hole 
and threw a track, thus immobilizing itself 
for the time being. 64 

By 1400, about two hours after their 
touchdown on the beach, both of the as- 
sault companies of the 3d Battalion had 
reached the 0-1 line on Sycamore Boule- 
vard. There they were ordered to stand by 
and prepare for a co-ordinated attack 
northward with the 2d Battalion Landing 
Team on their right. The jump-off was to 
be 1630. 

64 4th Tk Bn Rpt Flintlock, Incl B, Rpt of Co B, 
p. 2. 



324 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



During the two hours and a half of de- 
lay before pushing forward the assault, 
other elements of the battalion landed and 
various shifts were made along the forward 
line. The plan called for the left flank of 
the attack north of 0-1 line to be supported 
by machine guns and other weapons based 
on Pauline Point. Between 1430 and 1533 
Company M, the weapons company, em- 
placed its 81 -mm. mortars and some of its 
heavy machine guns on Pauline Point. 
Company L, which had initially been 
scheduled to act as battalion reserve, was 
finally boated, got ashore at 1531, and was 
ordered to release one assault team to 
Company I and to relieve Company B in 
reserve. Company B then relieved Com- 
pany K on the 0-1 line, while the latter 
was shifted to Pauline Point. Thus, as the 
hour for the jump-off approached, Com- 
panies I and B rested on the 0-1 line from 
left to right; Company L was in reserve to 
their rear; and Company K occupied Pau- 
line Point along with elements of the regi- 
mental weapons company. 

On Green Beach 2, Companies E and 
F, from left to right, came ashore within 
five minutes of each other around noon. 
Within ten minutes the landing team re- 
serve, Company G, started to land to the 
right of Yokohama Pier, which was on the 
boundary between Green Beaches 1 and 2. 
At 1215 landing team headquarters came 
ashore, followed approximately five min- 
utes later by the weapons company (Com- 
pany H) less its detached machine gun 
platoons. By early afternoon ten light 
tanks of the 1st and 2d Platoons, Company 
B, 4th Tank Battalion, were safely ashore 
and in a tank assembly area about sixty 
yards inland. 65 

As on the rest of the island, initial re- 
sistance in this zone of action was light. It 
had been anticipated that Sally Point, the 



southeast promontory of Namur, would be 
alive with Japanese weapons. Since the 
landing beaches extending to the west of 
Sally Point were concave in shape, this 
would have been an ideal position for en- 
filade fire against the shore line and the 
approaches thereto. That such was not the 
case can be attributed to the effectiveness 
of the preliminary air, naval, and artillery 
bombardment as well as to the supporting 
fires from the 3d Battalion Landing Team 
of the 25th Marines, which had emplaced 
so many weapons on Abraham Island the 
night before. 

Only desultory fire greeted the assault 
troops as they pushed inland toward the 
0-1 line. At first they were temporarily de- 
layed by an unexpected antitank ditch 
that extended laterally behind part of 
Green Beach 2. Most of the amphibian 
tractors found it impossible to get across 
this obstacle and had to discharge their 
troops at the edge of the shore instead of 
proceeding a hundred yards inland as 
originally planned. 

As the infantrymen moved forward, 
naval gunfire began to fall too close for 
comfort, and on the request of the battal- 
ion commander all naval ships were or- 
dered to cease fire at 1 250. By that time 
the artillery regiment would have com- 
pleted its schedule of fire. One final dive- 
bombing attack was delivered against 



65 This account of action of the 2d Battalion Land- 
ing Team, 24th Regimental Combat Team, is derived 
from 4th Marine Div Final Rpt Flintlock, Incl E, 
24th Marines Rpt; 2d Bn 24th Marines Narrative of 
Battle of Roi-Namur; Lt Col Richard G. Rothwell, 
USMG, A Study of an Amphibious Operation, The 
Battle of Namur, 31 Jan 44-2 Feb 44, Kwajalein 
Operation, Second Battalion, Twenty-Fourth Ma- 
rines, 4th Marine Division, MS, Marine Corps 
Schools, Record Section. Colonel Rothwell served as 
battalion executive officer on Namur and prepared 
this monograph for Amphibious Warfare School, Ma- 
rine Corps Schools, Senior Course, 1946-47. 



THE CAPTURE OF MAJURO AND ROI-NAMUR 



325 



Natalie Point on the northeastern tip of 
the island. Thereafter, the fighting was too 
close and the advance of front-line ele- 
ments too uneven to justify the use of fur- 
ther support fires. The infantry would 
have to rely on its own weapons. 

By 1300 elements of both assault com- 
panies of the 2d Battalion, 24th Marines, 
were on or close to the 0-1 line. On the 
right, Company F had overrun Sally Point 
and cleared out two machine guns that 
had fired a few rounds at the advancing 
marines. On the left, one boat team of 
Company E had quickly occupied Yoko- 
hama Pier without opposition while the 
rest of the company moved slowly through 
the underbrush and debris toward the 0-1 
line. In the absence of any well-distin- 
guished landmarks, Company E veered 
somewhat to the right of its zone of action 
and later became intermingled on the 0-1 
line with elements of Company F. 66 The 
reserve company, G, had been landed in 
its entirety on the left half of Green Beach 
2. It moved straight ahead in the expecta- 
tion of coming up on the rear of Company 
E. But since that company had moved to 
the right, Company G found itself unex- 
pectedly in the position of being in the as- 
sault on the battalion left. There, it met 
with sporadic machine gun and rifle fire 
and by 1300 was able to move only about 
1 75 yards from the beach. 

Up to this point progress in the zone of 
the 24th Marines had been fairly steady 
in spite of the confusion incident to dis- 
patching of boat waves from the line of de- 
parture, the failure of the armored amphi- 
bians to precede the troops inland, and the 
somewhat piecemeal landing. Resistance 
was light and scattered, and the main im- 
pediment to the advancing troops was the 
thickness of the underbrush and the pres- 
ence of a multitude of only half-destroyed 



buildings and installations, which had to 
be thoroughly investigated before the ad- 
vance could proceed. 

Then, shortly after 1300, an incident oc- 
curred that brought the advance to an 
abrupt halt and temporarily threw out of 
gear all plans for an orderly movement 
across the island to the north shore. With a 
tremendous roar a revetted building ex- 
ploded in the zone of Company F. 67 Im- 
mediately a thick cloud of pungent black 
smoke billowed upward a thousand feet 
and covered the entire island. The odor 
was so acrid that many thought a gas 
storehouse had been blown up. At the 2d 
Battalion command post there was a 
frenzied search for gas masks that had been 
discarded as unnecessary impedimenta. 
Down came a rain of large concrete frag- 
ments, twisted pieces of steel, shrapnel, 
and torpedo heads. Casualties to Ameri- 
can troops in the immediate area ran from 
fifty to a hundred, of whom about twenty 
were killed, either by concussion or by the 
falling debris. In a few minutes two other 
less violent explosions occurred somewhat 
forward of Company F's front lines. Al- 
together these three explosions accounted 

66 The "boat team" or "assault and demolitions 
team" represented an innovation in Marine Corps as- 
sault tactics. Each team in the assault companies con- 
sisted of a light machine gun group of four men, a 
demolitions group of five men, a bazooka group of 
three men, a support group consisting of two BAR 
teams, and an officer in charge. The reserve com- 
panies were organized into similar boat teams minus 
the machine gun elements. Each type of team was 
capable of embarking in entirety in an LVT(2). (4th 
Marine Div Final Rpt Flintlock, Incl E, Rpt of RCT 
24, p. 4.) 

67 The exact time of this incident is not clearly 
established. The regimental action report sets it at 
1245 (4th Marine Div Final Rpt Flintlock, Incl E, 
Rpt of RCT 24, p. 9). Colonel Rothwell's monograph 
puts it at 1305 (Rothwell, Battle of Namur, p. 22). 
1305 seems to be the more accurate since the first 
report made by an aerial observer of the explosion was 
at 1308 (4th Marine Divjnl, 1 Feb 44, p. 21). 



326 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 




A JAPANESE TORPEDO WARHEAD MAGAZINE explodes on Narnur. Note 
splashes in the water caused by falling debris. 



for more than 50 percent of all the casual- 
ties suffered on Namur by the 2d Battalion 
Landing Team of the 24th Marines. 68 

The cause of this disaster was not clearly 
understood at the time, but subsequent in- 
vestigation makes it reasonably certain 
that at least the first explosion was set off 
by a Marine demolitions group. These 
men had moved forward under cover of 
rifle fire and placed a shaped charge to 
penetrate the wall of the building near the 
ground. Once this was done, a sixteen- 
pound satchel charge was tossed into the 
building and immediately thereafter it 
blew up. What had been thought to be a 
possible gun position turned out to be a 
torpedo warhead magazine. 69 

The immediate results of the explosions 



were to stop any further co-ordinated for- 
ward movement in the zone of the 2d Bat- 
talion and to delay the organization of 
units already near the 0-1 line. All radio 
communication between battalion and the 
assault companies was knocked out and 
the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Francis 



68 4th Marine Div Final Rpt Flintlock, Incl E, Rpt 
ofRCT24, p. 9. 

69 These conclusions are based on a monograph en- 
titled The Battle of Roi-Namur, Marshall Islands, 
prepared by Joseph E. Lo Prete for Marine Corps 
Schools, Amphibious Warfare School, Junior Course, 
8th Class, MS, pp. 8-9. Major Lo Prete was one of the 
few surviving eyewitnesses to the incident and re- 
iterated his conclusion as to the cause of the explosion 
in an interview with P. A. Crowl, at Quantico, 1 6 No- 
vember 1951. The regimental commander of the 24th 
RCT, Franklin A. Hart, confirms this explanation of 
the event. (Interv, P. A. Crowl with Lt Gen Franklin 
A. Hart, 16 Nov 51.) 



THE CAPTURE OF MAJURO AND ROI-NAMUR 



327 



H. Brink, had to rely exclusively on run- 
ners. Individual boat teams on the front 
line had already become intermingled and 
after the explosion the company com- 
manders found it virtually impossible to 
reorganize their units into any semblance 
of order or integrity. Moreover, the enemy 
was becoming more active. Japanese ma- 
chine gun and rifle fire now enfiladed the 
entire right half of the 0-1 line. 

Nevertheless, Company G on the left 
succeeded in pushing forward to the 0-1 
line by about 1330. Meanwhile, Company 
A had landed shortly after the first explo- 
sion and had moved immediately to Sally 
Point behind Company F. About 1430 it 
was attached to the 2d Battalion Landing 
Team and ordered to pass through Com- 
pany F and continue the attack on order. 
By 1545 Company A was in position on 
the 0-1 line along Sycamore Boulevard 
from the sea to a point about two hundred 
yards northwest. There, it came under fire 
from either flank of its line. Two light 
tanks were ordered forward to take out the 
installation close to the sea on the right. At 
the same time fifteen LVT(A)'s were 
ordered to proceed through the water 
along the east coast of Namur and take the 
same blockhouse under fire. Meanwhile, 
on the left of the battalion's zone, Com- 
pany C had landed and was ordered to 
relieve Company E, the latter to go into 
battalion reserve. 70 

1630 was the jump-off hour prescribed 
by the regimental commander, Colonel 
Hart, for a two-battalion push from the 0-1 
line to the north shore. On the regimental 
left the 3d Battalion Landing Team had 
been in position for almost two and a half 
hours and launched its attack as sched- 
uled. Unfortunately during the long delay 
on 0-1, the Japanese had been able to re- 
cover from the shock of the initial heavy 



shelling and put up much stiffer resistance 
than they had yet been able to make. The 
fighting was too close and the front lines 
too hard to identify to justify the use of 
artillery, naval call fire, or close aerial 
support. 71 

In the right zone, the 2d Battalion Land- 
ing Team was experiencing greater diffi- 
culty in getting organized for the attack to 
the north coast. Not until about 1700 did 
Company C get into position to relieve 
Company E on the battalion left. Also, the 
light tanks were late in arriving and the at- 
tack did not get under way until 1730. 
Many of the small units of Companies E, 
F, and G had not received the word that 
they were to retire into the reserve area, so 
when the attack jumped off there were ele- 
ments of five companies intermingled in 
the assault. As the troops advanced behind 
the tanks, they came under steady fire 
from the large blockhouse on the right and 
from small arms all along the line. Progress 
on the battalion left was fairly steady, but 
on the right the line remained pinned down 
by fire from the blockhouse. 72 

Communication between tanks and in- 
fantry was faulty and co-ordination be- 
tween the two generally poor. Tanks fre- 
quently moved out of sight or fire range of 
the troops that were supposed to be sup- 
porting them and engaged in independent 
fire fights. Infantrymen in their turn often 

70 Rothwell, Battle of Namur, pp. 25-26. 

71 Brunelli, The Capture of Namur Island, p. 15. 
It was in this phase of the action that 1st Lt. John 

V. Power met his death and won the Medal of Honor. 
While setting a demolition charge on a Japanese pill- 
box, he was wounded in the stomach. Refusing to 
withdraw from the fight he pressed forward against 
another pillbox, stopping the flow of blood with his 
left hand and firing with his right. After emptying his 
carbine into this second pillbox he stopped to reload 
and was shot again in the stomach and head and 
killed. (Citation quoted in Proehl, The Fourth Marine 
Division in World War II, p. 11.) 

72 R. C. Rothwell, Battle of Namur, p. 27. 



THE CAPTURE OF MAJURO AND ROI-NAMUR 



329 



failed to keep pace with the tanks, even 
when it was possible, or to provide them 
with the support that was their due. It was 
during this phase that Capt. James L. 
Denig, who commanded Company B of 
the 4th Tank Battalion, got separated from 
his own tanks as well as his supporting in- 
fantry unit. As he stopped to get his bear- 
ings, six Japanese leaped out of the under- 
brush and swarmed over his tank. One of 
them dropped a grenade down the visual 
signal port, which had been left open to 
allow the foul air to escape from the turret. 
The explosion that followed mortally 
wounded Denig and killed his driver, and 
only by the timely intervention of some in- 
fantrymen who happened on the scene was 
the remainder of the crew rescued. 73 

As nightfall approached some tanks 
pushed forward as far as the north shore, 
but had to pull back for want of fuel or in- 
fantry support. A few of the troops also got 
as far as Narcissus Street, which ran paral- 
lel to the north coast less than a hundred 
yards from the shore line. This was the 
ultimate extent of Marine progress on 1 
February. About 1 820 the regimental com- 
mander ordered the rest of the island to be 
taken but it soon became apparent that 
this would be impossible before nightfall, 
and at 1930 the order came down to dig in 
on a perimeter defense, hold the ground 
gained, and prepare to continue the attack 
the following morning. By that time the 3d 
Battalion Landing Team had two com- 
panies abreast on a line about 1 75 yards 
north of the 0-1 line, or halfway between 
Sycamore Boulevard and the north shore. 
The 2d Battalion Landing Team's line was 
tied in with the 3d's and then bent back to 
the east to the point where the 0-1 line met 
the eastern shore. 74 

The night was far from restful. Japanese 
who had been bypassed during the day 



came to life to harass the Americans from 
the rear. Others infiltrated from the front. 
To compound the confusion, trigger-happy 
marines in the rear areas kept up a run- 
ning fire that seriously endangered troops 
at the front. The only organized Japanese 
counterattack occurred just at daybreak. 
Company I had lost contact with Com- 
pany B on its right, thus facilitating enemy 
infiltration of the line. About a hundred 
Japanese, organized into groups of ten to 
twenty, fell upon the two companies in a 
desperate charge that took thirty-five min- 
utes of intense hand-to-hand fighting to 
repulse. 75 Meanwhile, Company L was 
ordered into the front line, and Company 
K was moved from Pauline Point to 
Namur as landing team reserve. 76 

For the final push to the northern shore, 
the 24th Regimental Combat Team was to 
have for the first time the additional fire 
power of the division's medium tanks. 
These had been detached from the 23d 
Marines the previous evening and had 
already made one sortie up the west coast 
of Namur as far as Natalie Point and 
helped to break up the dawn counter- 
attack. 77 

At 0900 the 3d Battalion Landing Team, 
supported by the mediums, resumed the 
attack up the left half of Namur. Company 



7:i 4th Tk Bn Rpt Flintlock, Incl B, Co B Rpt, pp. 
4-5. 

74 4th Marine Div Final Rpt Flintlock, Incl E, Rpt 
of RGT 24, p. 11. 

75 During this counterattack, Pvt. Richard K. 
Sorenson saved the lives of five of hi? companions by 
hurling his own body on a Japanese hand grenade. 
For this action, which he survived, he was awarded 
the Medal of Honor. (Citation quoted in Proehl, The 
Fourth Marine Division in World War II, p. 12.) 

76 4th Marine Div Final Rpt Flintlock, Incl E, 
Rpt of RCT 24, pp. 11-12; Brunelli, The Capture of 
Namur, p. 1 7. 

77 4th Tk Bn Rpt Flintlock, Incl C, Co C Rpt, pp. 
2-3. 



THE CAPTURE OF MAJURO AND ROI-NAMUR 



331 



K was on the left, Company I in the mid- 
dle, and Company L on the right. Com- 
pany B went into battalion reserve. In the 
right sector of the island the attack was de- 
layed until about 1000 because of the late 
arrival of the light tanks that were to sup- 
port it. Meanwhile, command had been 
transferred from the 2d to the 1st Battalion 
Landing Team, the latter under Lt. Col. 
Aquilla J. Dyess. Dyess had a conglomerate 
command. In addition to Companies A, C, 
and E, which held positions on the front 
line from right to left, elements of Com- 
panies F and G still remained on the front 
line in spite of the fact that their parent 
units had been withdrawn into the rear 
area. 

Both battalion landing teams pushed 
steadily forward along the west and east 
coasts. By 1100 the 3d Battalion had 
reached Nora Point, the northwestern tip 
of the island. By that time, the two bat- 
talions were within visual contact of each 
other. The supporting tanks were then sent 
to the rear and the infantry, aided by half- 
tracks, continued the fight. By 1215 the 1st 
Battalion and Company L had secured 
Natalie Point and, except for mopping up, 
the battle was ended. During this final as- 
sault, Colonel Dyess personally led his bat- 
talion against the final pocket of Japanese 
resistance. While standing in the parapet 
of an antitank trench directing a group of 
infantry in a flanking attack against the 
last enemy position, he was killed by enemy 
machine gun fire. 78 

At 1418 on 2 February General Schmidt, 
commanding the 4th Marine Division, offi- 
cially announced the end of organized 
resistance on Namur. 79 All that remained 
was to mop up the few live Japanese still 
concealed in the underbrush and debris of 
Namur and to secure the rest of the islets 
of the northern half of Kwajalein Atoll. 



This latter task was assigned to the 25th 
Regimental Combat Team, which had 
made the initial D-Day assault on the 
islands immediately adjoining Roi-Namur 
and which had since been in division re- 
serve. Between 2 February and 7 Febru- 
ary this regiment occupied some fifty-five 
islands in the northern part of the atoll. 
Since it was at first believed that there 
might be enemy garrisons on these islands, 
artillery concentrations were fired from 
Allen and Albert, but this was unnecessary 
and was discontinued. No opposition was 
encountered and the natives proved 
friendly and anxious to be taken into 
American custody. 

Thus, with the capture of Roi-Namur 
and surrounding islands, U.S. forces com- 
pleted the occupation of the northern half 
of Kwajalein Atoll. In approximately two 
and a half days of fighting, the 4th Marine 
Division had suffered only 737 casualties, 
of which 190 were killed or died of 
wounds. 80 Enemy losses totaled 3,563 in- 
cluding 3,472 enemy dead, 51 Japanese 
prisoners of war, and 40 Korean laborers 
captured. 81 

In comparison to Tarawa, the operation 
was both easy and cheap in terms of lives 
expended. The reasons for this are not 
hard to discover. The enemy garrison in 
northern Kwajalein was fewer in number 
than that on Tarawa by about a thousand. 
The Japanese had not been expecting such 
a deep penetration into the Central Pacific 
and were generally caught off balance. 

78 For his aggressive leadership he was posthumously 
awarded the Medal of Honor. (Citation quoted in 
Proehl, The Fourth Marine Division in World War II, p. 
11.) 

79 4th Marine Div Final Rpt Flintlock, Incl A, p. 
32. 

80 4th Marine Div Final Rpt Flintlock, Incl I, 
Med Rpt, p. 4. 

81 V Phib Corps Flintlock Rpt, Incl D, G-2 Rpt, 
p. 12. 



332 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



Their fortifications were not particularly 
strong nor were they well enough em- 
placed to resist an invasion from the lagoon 
shore. Hydrographic conditions were fa- 
vorable for an amphibious landing, and 
the Marines of the 4th Marine Division 
were much better supplied with the neces- 
sary amphibious equipment to effect such 
a landing than had been the 2d Marine 



Division at Betio. Finally, and most sig- 
nificant, was the tremendous quantity of 
shells and bombs thrown into and dropped 
on the target before the main landings 
took place. Admiral Conolly's Northern 
Attack Force conclusively demonstrated 
that in small-island amphibious operations 
a prolonged preliminary bombardment 
could preclude a high casualty list. 



CHAPTER XIX 



The Seizure of 



Plans and Preparations 

The easy capture of Kwajalein Atoll 
provided the Central Pacific forces with an 
unexpected opportunity to advance their 
schedule of operations. Since the original 
directive of 20 July 1943, plans had been 
formulated by Admiral Nimitz, with the 
concurrence of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for 
an expansion of the American offensive in 
the Central Pacific. These plans had con- 
templated the capture of Eniwetok Atoll, 
on or about 1 May 1944, in preparation 
for a possible seizure of Truk or other 
islands in the Carolines. A strike by the 
main elements of the Pacific Fleet against 
Truk had been tentatively scheduled for 24 
March 1944, prior to the landings on Eni- 
wetok and Truk. 1 The 27th Infantry Divi- 
sion had been alerted on 13 January 1944 
to prepare for the seizure of Eniwetok. 2 
Preparations for this new move were 
already in their preliminary stage when 
the landings in the Marshalls took place. 

The possibility that the operations 
against Kwajalein might be concluded 
early enough to step up the advance 
against Eniwetok had been considered by 
Admiral Nimitz and other naval planners 
even before the Marshalls operation was 
launched. Admiral Spruance later recalled 
that before sailing for Kwajalein from 
Pearl Harbor he had received the first 
aerial photographs of Eniwetok indicating 
that the atoll was only lightly defended, 



Eniwetok Atoll 



but other indications were that the garri- 
son was being reinforced by several thou- 
sand troops. He reported these findings to 
Nimitz and expressed the hope that imme- 
diately upon the conclusion of the Kwaja- 
lein-Majuro operation he might proceed 
to the capture of Eniwetok rather than 
send his fleet to the South Pacific for the 
attack against Kavieng, which the Joint 
Chiefs of Staff had scheduled for 1 April 
1944. 3 

By 2 February it had become apparent 
that Kwajalein could be completely se- 
cured without the commitment of the 
reserve troops — the 22d Marines and the 
106th Infantry (less 2d Battalion). Admiral 
Nimitz radioed Spruance asking his rec- 
ommendation on proceeding immediately 
to the capture of Eniwetok, covering it with 
a carrier strike against Truk. After consult- 
ing with Admiral Turner and General 
Holland Smith at Kwajalein, Admiral 
Spruance recommended approval, and the 
decision to strike at Eniwetok was con- 
firmed. 4 

On 3 February, Admiral Hill, who had 
commanded the brief assault on Majuro, 

~ 1 Memo, CINCPOA forJCS, 13 Jan 44, CINCPOA 
Serial 004, Campaign Plan Granite. 

2 Rad, COMGENCENPAC to CG 27th Inf Div, 13 
Jan 44, in 27 th Inf Div G-3 Jnl, 13 Jan 44. 

3 Ltr, Vice Adm Raymond A. Spruance to Jeter A. 
Isely, 14 Jan 49, filed in Princeton University Library; 
Morison, Aleutians, Gilberts and Marshalls, p, 285. 

4 Ltr, Vice Adm Raymond A. Spruance to Maj Gen 
Harry J. Malony, 6 Jan 49, filed in OCMH; Ltr, 
Spruance to Isely, 14 Jan 49. 



334 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



was flown by seaplane to Kwajalein. He 
proceeded at once to a series of conferences 
with Admirals Spruance and Turner, and 
from these conferences the basic plans for 
the invasion of Eniwetok were formulated. 5 

No operation that preceded or followed 
it in the Central Pacific had the same im- 
promptu character that marked the seizure 
of Eniwetok. Formal planning may be said 
to have begun no earlier than 3 February 
and lasted until 15 February, the day on 
which the expedition sailed for Kwajalein 
lagoon. The invasion force was assembled 
in a seven-day period, beginning with the 
conclusion of the Kwajalein campaign and 
ending the moment the ships sailed into 
the open sea. While the expedition against 
Eniwetok was not exactly makeshift, it was, 
by previous standards, thrown together 
hurriedly without the meticulous prepara- 
tion that characterized most large-scale 
amphibious operations. 

The plan for the seizure of Eniwetok 
included the ambitious project of a full- 
scale carrier strike against Truk, which lay 
about 670 nautical miles southwest of Eni- 
wetok Atoll. Truk had long been known to 
Americans as the "Gibraltar of the Pacific" 
and the "Japanese Pearl Harbor." It pos- 
sessed the best fleet anchorage in all the 
Japanese Mandated Islands and since July 
1942 had been the base for the Combined 
Fleet, now under command of Admiral 
Koga. Also, Truk served as headquarters 
for the 6th Fleet (submarines) and was an 
important air base and staging point be- 
tween Japan and the South Pacific. 6 

Admiral Mitscher's fast carrier force 
(Task Force 58) was assigned the job of 
conducting a full-scale strike against Truk 
on 16 February, partly to cover the Eniwe- 
tok landing but, more important, to hit the 
Combined Fleet, which was thought to be 
still based there, as well as to damage the 



airfields and destroy any planes that might 
be found there. After completion of the 
move against the eastern Carolines, 
Mitscher's task force was to proceed on 
northwest and strike at the Marianas, if 
feasible. 7 

Eniwetok Atoll, the target assigned to 
Admiral Hill's task group, lies 330 nautical 
miles northwest of Kwajalein. 8 It is a typi- 
cal Central Pacific coral atoll with a circu- 
lar reef surrounding a lagoon, which at its 
widest point is seventeen miles from east to 
west and twenty-one miles from north to 
south. Some thirty small islands rise from 
the reef, most of them along the eastern 
half. The main islands, three in number, 
were Engebi in the north, Parry in the 
southeast, and Eniwetok in the south. 
There were, at the time of the invasion, 
only two deep-water passages into the 
lagoon. One, called Wide Passage, was lo- 
cated at the extreme southern end of the 
lagoon to the west of Eniwetok Island. The 
other was Deep Passage , lying bet ween 



Parry andjaptan Islands. (Map 16) 

When planning for the operation began, 
intelligence of the atoll was vague. One 
reconnaissance mission, flown from the 
Gilberts on 28 December, had managed to 
reach the atoll and take air photographs 
from an altitude of 20,000 feet. Other aerial 
photos, taken during the neutralization 
strikes that accompanied the Kwajalein 
landings, became available during the 
planning period, and additional photo- 
graphs were dropped from planes onto the 



5 Commander Eniwetok Expeditionary Group (TG 
51.1 1) (Adm H. W. Hill) Report of Eniwetok Opera- 
tions, 7 Mar 44 (hereafter cited as TG 51.11 Eniwetok 
Rpt),p. 1. 

6 Morison, Aleutians, Gilberts and Marshalls, pp. 315- 
17. 

7 CINCPAC-CINCPOA Opns in POA, Feb 44, 
Annex B. 

8 JICPOA Bull 3-44, 20 Jan 44, pp. 1-5. 



THE SEIZURE OF ENIWETOK ATOLL 



335 





Carriel!»old<rtu It 



ENIWETOK ATOLL 




i — i — 1_ i — i — i 

N.LJTICil MILC* 



I 

>*»>.»-< 
I 




Emwctak I 



MAP 16 



ships of the invasion convoy while the ves- 
sels were en route to the target. 9 

Until early January, the best American 
intelligence sources indicated that there 
were only about 700 Japanese in the atoll, 
mostly concentrated on Engebi Island, 
which contained the only airstrip in the 
area. Late in January, however, it became 
apparent that the atoll might have been 
recently reinforced. From documents cap- 
tured at Kwajalein, the presence of the 



Japanese 1st Amphibious Brigade in the Mar- 
shalls became known. American intelli- 
gence staffs at that time knew it as the 1st 
Mobile Shipbome Brigade and surmised from 
its designation that it might be stationed 
aboard ships so as to be transferred readily 
from one atoll to another. The brigade had 
been traced to Truk, thence eastward, but 
had been lost by American submarines be- 



COMINCH P-002, p. IV- 7. 



336 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



fore its arrival at its ultimate destination. 
The ships had not been located during the 
invasion strikes. Captured documents from 
Kwajalein and a prisoner of war who had 
formerly been a member of the Kwajalein 
detachment of the brigade confirmed the 
planners' fears that the main strength of 
the unit was at Eniwetok. This informa- 
tion, received during the first week of plan- 
ning, caused the estimate of the Eniwetok 
Atoll garrison to be revised upward to 
2,900-4,000 troops. Air photographs taken 
during the assault on Kwajalein indicated 
that most of the above-ground installations 
on Engebi showed a considerable increase 
in the foxhole and trench systems, but 
failed to disclose any indication of troops 
on Parry beyond the location of a few new 
foxholes. On Eniwetok Island, approxi- 
mately fifty new foxholes were discovered 
as well as indications of small enemy forces 
near the southwest end of the island. On 
the basis of interpretations made from 
these later photographs, it was assumed 
that the main body of the Japanese garri- 
son, whatever its strength, would be found 
on Engebi, and that Parry and Eniwetok 
Islands would be only lightly defended. 10 

Composition of the Force 

The Eniwetok expedition was to be 
much smaller than the one that had just 
captured Kwajalein. In organizing it, Ad- 
miral Hill modeled his force after the 
Majuro Landing Force rather than adopt 
the more elaborate task force organization 
for Kwajalein. The force was known as the 
Eniwetok Expeditionary Group. Admiral 
Hill's flagship was the attack transport 
Cambria, which had been converted to an 
amphibious headquarters ship by the addi- 
tion of much additional radio equipment 
and other communications facilities. The 



troops with their supplies and equipment 
were to be lifted aboard five attack trans- 
ports, one transport, two attack cargo ships, 
one cargo ship, one dock landing ship, two 
high-speed (destroyer) transports, and nine 
LST's. This transport group, which also 
included six LCI's, was to be screened en 
route by ten destroyers. The naval fire 
support group, commanded by Rear Adm. 
Jesse B. Oldendorf, USN, contained three 
battleships, three heavy cruisers, and seven 
destroyers. Air support would be provided 
by an escort carrier group containing three 
escort carriers and three destroyers, and a 
fast carrier group (Task Group 58.4, de- 
tached from Admiral Mitscher's carrier 
task force) containing one heavy carrier 
(CV), two light carriers (CVL), two heavy 
cruisers, one light antiaircraft cruiser 
(CL(AA)), and eight destroyers. Finally, 
a group of three mine sweepers was 
attached. 11 

The assault troops assigned to the expe- 
dition consisted mainly of the 106th Infan- 
try Regiment, reinforced (less the 2d 
Battalion), commanded by Col. Russell A. 
Ayers, USA, and the 22d Marine Regi- 
mental Combat Team commanded by Col. 
John T. Walker, USMC. Both were joined 
under a temporary command echelon en- 
titled Tactical Group One, V Amphibious 
Corps, commanded by Brig. Gen. Thomas 
E. Watson, USMC. This command also 
included several other units that had been 
detached from the Kwajalein attack forces 
after completing their duties there. These 
included the V Amphibious Corps Recon- 
naissance Company, the Scout Company 
(Company D) of the 4th Marine Tank 
Division, Company A of the 708th Am- 
phibian Tank Battalion (17 amphibian 

~ 10 RGT 106 Unit Opns Rpt Downside, 25 May 44, 
p. 10; TG 51.1 1 Eniwetok Rpt, pp. 1-2. 
11 TG 51.11 Eniwetok Rpt, Incl A, pp. 1-4. 



THE SEIZURE OF ENIWETOK ATOLL 



337 



Chart 3 — Task Organization of Major Commands for the Attack on Eniwetok 

Atoll 



Tint G«vp Sl.11 
floli EifMdittaivory GfOup 
Rw A**H. W Hill 



Lor' R.^. WhitvKttid 



lent, (Wf. S1 I? 

I h . _ 



R*ar Adlm H. W. Hill 



Ca*p £ A. Cmut 



Coftin Toil Coup 4 

R M , A elm S- P- G-nd«r 



Eniwclfit GainvOn Group 

R™ AJ m H, W H>ll 



Lcndtnt Fn.ffi 



HMrth ffllo^l.-,, ftrlnforttd 

tW Id Etotml-m} 

V Vliife Com fitiOfinoiHonr, Co 
Co D 4lh Minrv* Tailr SoMolion 

Phenol Aw^fenn Tiotlw Bf - : 



ground forcrr 



tanks), the 708th Amphibian Tractor Bat- 
talion (less one LVT group) totaling 102 
LVT's, a provisional DUKW company of 
the 7th Infantry Division (30 DUKW's 
and 4 LVT's), and part of Demolition 
Team 1. The total landing force came to 
7,997 mem 12 

Except for those units that had partici- 
pated in the landings at Kwajalein, the 
assault troops assigned to Eniwetok lacked 
the intense training that usually preceded 
amphibious invasions in the Pacific. The 
106th Regiment had received some am- 
phibious training in the Hawaiian area in 
the early autumn of 1943 when it had been 
thought that the entire 27th Division would 
invade Nauru, but subsequent specialized 



training had been only sketchy because of 
the last-minute assignment of the unit to 
the reserve force for the Kwajalein opera- 
tion. 13 The 2 2d Marines, stationed on 
Samoa since mid- 1942, had only moved to 
the Hawaiian area in November of 1943, 
and its eleventh-hour training too was 
sketchy. 14 Both units suffered from want of 
realistic amphibious rehearsals. About all 
they had been able to accomplish before 
sailing for Kwajalein were simple practices 



v - RGT 106 FO 2, Annex B, 12 Feb 44, p. 1; 
CINCPAC-CINCPOA Opns in POA : Feb 44, Annex 
B, p. 7. 

1:1 USAFICPA Participation Rpt Kwajalein and 
Eniwetok Opns, p. 199. 

14 Bcvan G. Cass, ed.. History of the Sixth Marine Di- 
vision (Washington, 1948), p. 8. 



338 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSH ALLS 



in ship-to-shore movements. Not enough 
amphtracks were available and there were 
no DUKW's. During the operation itself 
most of the troops were landed in amph- 
tracks for their first time. The Marine 
artillery battalion landed for its first time 
in DUKW's. The rehearsal held on the 
island of Maui had not permitted any 
appreciable advance inland, no combat 
firing, no infantry-tank team movement. 
In short, the troops destined for Eniwetok 
were greener than most going into actual 
amphibious combat for the first time. 15 

Tactical Plans 

Initially, the target date recommended 
was 12 February, but was later changed to 
15 February, and finally established for 
the 17th of that month. 16 The assault was 
originally divided into four phases. Phase 
I was to take place on D Day, 17 February. 
Following the usual preliminary gunfire, 
aerial bombardment, and mine sweeping 
operations, the Reconnaissance Company, 
V Amphibious Corps, was to land initially 
on Camellia (Aitsu) and Canna (Rujoru) 
Islands southeast of Engebi. At the same 
time the scout company (Company D), 4th 
Marine Tank Battalion, was to land on 
Zinnia (Bogon) Island northwest of Engebi 
to prevent any escape of the enemy from 
Engebi in that direction. Once Camellia 
and Canna were secured, the 2d Separate 
Pack Howitzer Battalion (Marine) with 
75-mm. pack howitzers was to land on 
Camellia, and the 104th Field Artillery 
Battalion (Army) with 105- mm. howitzers 
was to land on Canna. The two battalions 
were then to prepare to support the next 
day's attack on Engebi. Phase II was to 
commence on 18 February. The 2 2d Ma- 
rine Regiment was to land on the lagoon 
shore of Engebi with two battalions abreast 



and capture that island. One platoon of 
the 106th Infantry's Cannon Company, 
consisting of two self-propelled 105-mm. 
guns, was to support the marines. The 
106th Regimental Combat Team was to 
act as group reserve during this phase. 
During Phase III of the operation, Eniwe- 
tok and Parry Islands in the southern 
sector of the atoll were to be seized, the 
date depending upon the progress of the 
attack on Engebi. The 106th Infantry with 
the 2d Separate Tank Company (Marine 
medium tanks) attached, was to land in 
column of battalions on Eniwetok Island 
and capture it. One battalion of the 22d 
Marines was to be prepared to land in sup- 
port if necessary, while the remaining ma- 
rines were to occupy the other small islands 
in the northern sector of the atoll. It was 
presumed that Eniwetok Island would be 
only lightly defended, so the 106th was 
ordered to be prepared to land on Parry 
Island within two hours after the initial 
assault on Eniwetok. During Phase IV, the 
remainder of the islands in the atoll were 
to be occupied by troops of both the Marine 
and the Army regiments. 17 

Preliminary Air Operations 

As the Eniwetok Expeditionary Group 
sailed from Kwajalein lagoon on 15 Feb- 
ruary, Marc Mitscher's mighty flotilla of 
fast carriers was moving swiftly westward 
toward that most fearsome of all of Japan's 
island bases in the Central Pacific — Truk. 
With three of its fast carrier groups (the 
fourth was detached to support the Eniwe- 
tok landings), Task Force 58 set sail from 

15 CG Tactical Group 1, V Amphibious Corps (Gen 
Watson), Special Report Concerning Flintlock and 
Catchpole Operations, 1 Mar 44 (hereafter cited as 
Tac Gp 1 Sp Rpt), p. 7. 

16 TG 51.11 Eniwetok Rpt, p. 2. 

17 Tac Gp 1 Opn Order 2-44, 10 Feb 44. 



THE SEIZURE OF ENIWETOK ATOLL 



339 



Majuro on 12 February. Operating under 
the command of Admiral Spruance, who 
carried his flag aboard the new battleship 
New Jersey, Task Force 58 consisted of 5 
heavy carriers, 4 light carriers, 6 battle- 
ships, 10 cruisers of various sizes, and 28 
destroyers. 18 After refueling at sea, Mitsch- 
er's ships arrived off of Truk in the early 
morning of 1 7 February (Tokyo time) and 
launched their first fighter sweep of seventy 
planes, which attacked aircraft and air- 
fields at dawn. The strike was eminently 
successful. A total destruction of 1 28 enemy 
planes (72 on the ground and 56 in the air) 
was credited to the U.S. naval pilots with 
the loss of only four American planes. 19 
Immediately after the fighter strike, eight- 
een torpedo bombers dropped fragmentary 
clusters on most of the airfields, rendering 
them temporarily unserviceable. Next day 
the main strike against shipping in the 
harbor was made. Naval planners had 
hoped to catch a sizable element of the 
Combined Fleet at Truk, where it had been 
sighted two weeks earlier by Marine recon- 
naissance planes. Unfortunately, Admiral 
Koga was alert to the impending danger 
and had set sail with most of his fleet for 
Palau before the U.S. carriers arrived. 
Nevertheless, the Japanese merchant ma- 
rine suffered a severe blow as a result of 
the strikes. A total of about 200,000 tons of 
merchant shipping was destroyed in the 
harbor. Also, while the carrier planes were 
working over Truk itself, Admiral Spru- 
ance's support ships were able to intercept 
and sink one light cruiser and one de- 
stroyer trying to escape from the area. A 
third Japanese destroyer got away. 

Meanwhile, the fourth fast carrier group 
(Task Group 58.4), which had been 
attached to Admiral Hill's command, pro- 
ceeded directly against Eniwetok on 16 
February, the day before the expeditionary 



force arrived. There, the planes destroyed 
all buildings of any consequence, rendered 
the airfield at Engebi temporarily useless, 
and demolished one of the two coastal de- 
fense guns on the northeast corner of that 
island. The airfield was pitted with bomb 
craters, and an estimated fourteen enemy 
aircraft were destroyed on the ground. In 
addition, last-minute aerial photographs 
were taken and delivered to Admiral Hill's 
flagship, Cambria, at sea en route to the 
target. 20 

Japanese Defenses on Eniwetok Atoll 

Although before the attack on Pearl 
Harbor the Japanese Navy had conducted 
extensive construction projects in the Mar- 
shall Islands, Eniwetok had been largely 
overlooked. Up to that time Japanese plans 
called for the atoll to be used only as a fuel 
storage depot, and on 5 September 1941, 
the 4th Fleet ordered 1,416,000 yen 
($336,583.20) to be set aside for the con- 
struction of a fuel tank, feed pipe, and liv- 
ing quarters for the personnel to man the 
depot. 21 

Evidently, the first Japanese garrison on 
Eniwetok was a small detachment of six 
men sent from the 61st Guard Force at Kwa- 



1S This account of the Truk strike is derived from 
the following sources: CINCPAC-CINCPOA Opns in 
POA, Feb 44, Incl B, pars. 164-219; Office of the Sec- 
retary of Defense, Weapons Systems Evaluation 
Group, Staff Study 4, Operational Experience of Fast 
Carrier Task Forces in World War II, 15 August 1951, 
pp. 163-64; Morison, Aleutians, Gilberts and Marshalls, 
pp. 315-32. 

19 CINCPAC-CINCPOA Opns in POA, Feb 44, 
par. 177. These claims are probably exaggerated. 
Morison estimates Japanese losses in the air to be over 
thirty and on the ground about forty. (Morison, Aleu- 
tians, Gilberts and Marshalls , p. 320.) 

20 TG 51.11 Eniwetok Rpt, Incl A, p. 38. 

21 Special Forces, Early Series, Vol. 10, NA 12255, 
WDC 161009. 



340 



SEIZURE OF THE GILBERTS AND MARSHALLS 



jalein to man a special lookout station. 22 In 
November 1942 about three hundred con- 
struction workers landed at Engebi. The 
next month about five hundred workers of 
the 4th Fleet Construction Department were 
sent to Eniwetok to construct an airfield. 
The field was completed in June or July of 
1943, whereupon the majority of the con- 
struction personnel were transferred to 
Kwajalein. Sometime between August and 
October 1943 a small naval garrison force, 
never totaling more than sixty-one men, 
arrived at the atoll to garrison Engebi and 
its air base. This garrison maintained three 
lookout stations, a branch naval post office, 
a battery of two 1 2-cm. guns, and two twin- 
mount 13-mm. machine guns. The tiny 
force was the only ground combat unit on 
Eniwetok Atoll before the arrival of the 1st 
Amphibious Brigade on 4 January 1944. 23 

Thus Eniwetok Atoll was left practically 
unprotected, with no major system of pre- 
pared defenses. The 1st Amphibious Brigade 
arrived less than a month and a half before 
the American landings and barely had 
time to dig in. The contrast between the 
Japanese capacities here and at Kwajalein 
are obvious. In the latter atoll the fortifica- 
tions had taken years to construct. Some of 
the units at Kwajalein had been there since 
before Pearl Harbor and were certainly 
prepared to defend the base long before 
U.S. forces attacked it. At Eniwetok, over 
2,500 troops were dumped on a lonely atoll 
almost barren of defenses only six weeks 
before the American landings. 

The 1st Amphibious Brigade, which totaled 
3,940 troops, may have originally been in- 
tended to serve as a mobile reserve force 
for the entire Marshalls area, to be based 
at Kwajalein and rushed to other threat- 
ened atolls. But when the brigade reached 
Truk on 27 December it was ordered to be 
parceled out to Wotje, Maloelap, Kwaja- 



lein, and Eniwetok to reinforce the garri- 
sons on those atolls. The brigade left Truk 
on 30 December, reaching Eniwetok on 4 
January. There, the Eniwetok detachment 
consisting of 2,586 troops was detached 
and the convoy left for Kwajalein and 
elsewhere. 24 

In addition to the 2,586 troops of the 
brigade, there were stationed on Eniwetok 
Atoll at the time of the attack almost a 
thousand other enemy personnel: civilian 
employees of the brigade; fifty-nine men of 
the 61st Guard Force Detachment, which had 
been there since October of 1943; air per- 
sonnel that were in the process of being 
evacuated; a small survey party of about 
fifty men; Japanese and Korean construc- 
tion workers; laborers hired by the Sankyu 
Transportation Company; and an un- 
known number of naval stragglers. This 
brought the total to about 3,500, but of this 
number only the brigade and the 61st Guard 
Force Detachment could be considered effec- 
tive combat troops. 25 Thus, in terms of 
numbers alone, Eniwetok housed more 
combat troops than Kwajalein, but this 
difference was more than offset by the 
comparative paucity of fortifications on 
Eniwetok Atoll. 

Contrary to American expectations, the 
bulk of the enemy personnel at the time of 
the landings was located on Parry Island 
rather than on Engebi. Parry was the 
headquarters of Maj. Gen. Yoshimi Nishi- 
da, who commanded the brigade, and on 



22 JICPOA Translation 3998, 6th Base Force Secret 
Directive 104-43. 

23 JICPOA Bull 89-44, Japanese Defense of Eni- 
wetok Atoll, 12 Jun 44, p. 3. 

24 The 729 men for the Wotje detachment were 
caught at Kwajalein by the American invasion. 
(JICPOA Bull 88-44, 75^ Amphibious Brigade, Japanese 
Army, 13 Jun 44, pp. 6-7.) 

25 JICPOA Bull 89-44, Japanese Defense of Eni- 
wetok Atoll, 12 Jun 44, pp. 4-5. 



THE SEIZURE OF ENIWETOK ATOLL 



341 



this island Nishida had stationed the bri- 
gade reserve and the Parry Island garrison, 
totaling 1,115 troops, with almost 250 
other personnel. The troops had with them 
a total of thirty-six heavy grenade dis- 
chargers, thirty-six light machine guns, six 
heavy machine guns, ten 81 -mm. mortars, 
three 20-mm. automatic guns, two moun- 
tain guns, one 20-mm. cannon, and three 
light tanks. 

The defense plans for Parry were out- 
lined in a brigade order dated 5 February 
1944. About one half of the troops were 
disposed at the water's edge, where they 
were to be grouped into strong points about 
140 feet apart. The defense of the beaches 
was to be supported by mountain guns, 
20-mm. automatic guns, and other weap- 
ons. The mountain guns and 20-mm. 's 
were to fire first. Light and heavy machine 
guns were to fire on landing craft before 
and after they reached the underwater ob- 
stacles. Next, mortars and grenade throw- 
ers were to deliver concentrated fire against 
the enemy at the beaches and were to 
cover the sectors between fortified areas 
and strong points. To facilitate the employ- 
ment of artillery and heavy weapons, the 
order called for fields of fire to be cleared 
through coconut groves. The order gave 
quite explicit instructions for measures 
against tanks: "Destroy enemy tanks when 
they are stopped by obstacles by means of 
hollow charge anti-tank rifle grenades, 
close-in attack, land mines, water mines, 
and Molotov cocktails. Especially at night, 
have a part of the force attack them." 26 

The order made it very clear that the 
brigade was not expected to survive an 
American assault once it had established a 
beachhead. Any troops remaining after 
the Americans had landed in force were to 
assemble in a central area. Then, the order 
continued, ". . . sick and wounded who 



cannot endure the battle will commit sui- 
cide. [Others] . . . will reorganize, return 
to battle as a unit, and die fighting." 27 

The Japanese were able to construct 
very few installations and gun positions 
above ground on Parry in the short time 
that the brigade was there. With very few 
exceptions, the defenses consisted of fox- 
holes and trenches. These fell into two 
categories, the old and the new. The old 
foxholes and trenches were located on the 
ocean side, were well constructed, and 
often lined with rocks or coconut logs. 
Relying on their estimate of American am- 
phibious tactics as demonstrated at Tara- 
wa, the Japanese more recently had 
undertaken heavier defenses on the lagoon 
side. These were freshly and hastily con- 
structed, and therefore much inferior. All 
entrenchments were well camouflaged, 
although the camouflage was superior on 
the ocean side. A typical strong point con- 
sisted of a spider-web